Deputy Secretary-General Cites Legacy of Muslim Women Leaders, Hails Those Taking Up Mantle, in Video Message to ‘Women in Islam’ Conference

(Delayed in transmission)

Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s video message for the Conference on “Women in Islam:  Understanding the Rights and Identity of Women in the Islamic World” on the Sidelines of the Sixty-Seventh Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, held on 8 March:

Excellencies, Sisters, Brothers,

Ladies and gentlemen,

As-salaam Alaikum.

On behalf of the Secretary-General and myself, I thank you for your invitation and wish I could be with you in person.

I thank the Government of Pakistan [as Chair of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation’s Council of Foreign Ministers] for convening this essential discussion.

You gather during the sixty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women, when the world comes together to reflect on what it has achieved — or not — for women and girls around the world.

I commend the organizers for their ambition to bridge the gap between perception and reality regarding the rights of women in Islam and to celebrate Muslim women throughout the ages, who serve as an inspiration for our young Muslim women.

May our role models multiply as young women of today become the role models of tomorrow and as they are joined by our Muslim brothers.

These objectives have never been more important.  As a proud Muslim woman, I know the transformative change of women’s leadership and the long legacy of examples in our faith community.

I take inspiration from leading women pioneers such as Khadijah Bint Khuwaylid (Umm al-Mu'minin), Aisha bint Abu Bakr (Umm al-Mu'minin) and Fatima Al Zahra, dating back to the earliest days of Islam.

I take strength from the many Muslim women throughout my own life, including the late Hajiya Bilkusu Yusuf and many of whom I am honoured to work with today — who are leading in their fields and blazing the trail for others.

I take hope from young torchbearers like Malala Yousafzai, who represents a new generation of Muslim women leading the way to a better future.

We must do more, not only to celebrate Muslim women’s leadership but to enable, grow and support future leaders and to ensure that both those outside and inside the Muslim community are aware of the rich and strong roots of women’s rights within Islam.

In 2015, all 193 Member States of the United Nations General Assembly adopted Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality.  Since then, the world has witnessed both new challenges and old arguments on the roles and rights of women.

In some instances, religions have been invoked to justify the denial of human rights.

Last month, I traveled to Afghanistan to engage the de facto authorities to reverse their ban on women’s and girls’ education.

I was not alone.  I spoke from a united position, together with countries from across the region and the organizations that deliver essential services to Afghans every day, including the United Nations.

The edicts were compounded by restrictions on work, movement, access to health, food and livelihoods.  Countless women and girls lost their rights and dignity in a blink of an eye.

Sisters and brothers, we are united on the fact that the decrees do not reflect our shared Islamic values of justice and compassion.

The first verses of the Quran command human beings, both men and women, to read and learn (Surat Al A’alaq).  This is a core principle and right on which all others are built.

Each of us can contribute to making the world a better place, and it is incumbent on each of us to ensure that every girl has the opportunity to learn and live a life in fulfilment of her potential.

Make no mistake — this is a deeply Islamic value, and one that is reflected in Sustainable Development Goal 5.

We have international frameworks that reinforce and amplify the rights of our women and girls.

As we look to the Sustainable Development Goals Summit in September, where the global community will recommit to making the Goals a reality for all, we must deepen our understanding of what unites us and build on our common connections across cultures, traditions and religions.

Sisters and brothers,

As part of the global Muslim community, we must be more vocal than ever about our values and the world we want to build – and we must work together in a spirit of solidarity.

I hope that this Conference brings us closer to these outcomes.  I thank you and wish you fruitful discussions.


For information media. Not an official record.