As Women Worldwide Still Struggle to Achieve Basic Rights, Third Committee Emphasizes Importance of Access to Citizenship, Education, Work, Justice
World Has Collective Responsibility to Act as Afghan Authorities Issue Multiple Edicts Denying Women’s and Girl’s Rights, UN Official States
Pressing challenges like climate change and armed conflict cannot be overcome if half of the world’s population does not enjoy equal rights and opportunities, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today, as it commenced its debate on the advancement of women.
Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, shone a spotlight on the persistence of gender-discriminatory nationality laws, stressing that freedom from discrimination starts with the enjoyment of a nationality and equality as citizens. Noting that today, 50 countries continue to have nationality laws that contain gender-discriminatory provisions and women are denied the right to confer nationality on their children on an equal basis with men in 24 of those countries, she said: “Make no mistake: statelessness and gender-discriminatory nationality laws are tantamount to violence against women, as they constitute severe forms of discrimination.”
Underlining the dire situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, Dorothy Estrada-Tanck, Chair of the Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls, said institutionalized inequality and gender-based discrimination there is without parallel anywhere in the world. “Since taking power in August 2021, the de facto authorities have relentlessly issued edict after edict, of which the vast majority restrict the rights of women and girls, including their rights to education, work, health, access to justice and freedom of movement, attire and behaviour. “We have a collective responsibility to act now before it is too late.”
Ana Peláez Narváez, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), meanwhile, voiced deep concern that sexual violence continues to be used as means of warfare in armed conflicts worldwide. The Committee continues to monitor the situation of women and girls affected by the war against Ukraine and issued recommendations in October 2022 to the State Party to protect and promote women’s rights, including those in conflict-affected areas and among internally displaced women.
Also briefing the Third Committee today was Daniel Seymour, Director of the Strategic Partnerships Division, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women), who introduced reports on, inter alia, eliminating violence against women migrant workers; improving the situation of women and girls in rural areas, including through programmes addressing food security, social protection and climate resilience; and improving the status of women in the United Nations system.
Turning to their general debate, delegates highlighted the plight of older women, women migrants and women living in conflict areas, outlining various initiatives their Governments are undertaking to promote women’s rights and their social, political and economic advancements.
On that note, the representative of the United Arab Emirates, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, sounded alarm over “gender persecution” in Afghanistan, where women are being stripped of their livelihoods and future. Women are prohibited in parks and much of public life, from working for non-governmental organisations and the UN. She deplored the denial of education for girls beyond primary education, which deepens entrenched inequalities, calling on the Taliban to start a political process to enable women and girls to participate in Afghanistan’s future.
Armenia’s delegate recalled that, on 19 September, Azerbaijan launched an attack against the civilian population of Nagorno-Karabakh which resulted in the death of many civilians, including women and children. Within days of Azerbaijan’s military aggression, more than 100,000 persons — mostly women, children and elderly — were forcibly displaced and took refuge in Armenia, he said, voicing concern over its impact on the advancement of women.
Ethiopia’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the African Group, spotlighted challenges faced by women and girls in rural areas and in statelessness situations, including income disparities, labour market discrimination, high unemployment and a high incidence of poverty. Accordingly, she emphasized the need to focus on rural women and girls who cannot enjoy decent work due to lack of technology and poor quality of education. Special attention must also be paid to those women who cannot own land and other productive resources and cannot access international markets for their products, she added.
Turning to the situation in Myanmar, Liechtenstein’s delegate said that, due to rising violence and fear from mass arrests and summary executions, women in that country face increasing difficulties accessing basic health care services and struggle to secure sufficient income. He further spotlighted the striking underrepresentation of women in leadership positions, noting that only 21 women leaders stood at the rostrum of the General Assembly Hall during this year’s General Debate — merely 11 per cent of all speakers.
Interactive Dialogues - Discrimination against Women
In the morning, the Third Committee heard from experts and United Nations directors speaking on the advancement of women, followed by interactive dialogues. Presenters included Daniel Seymour, Director of the Strategic Partnerships Division, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women); Ana Peláez Narváez, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); Dorothy Estrada-Tanck, Chair of the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; and Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences.
Mr. SEYMOUR, introducing four reports, said that the first, “Violence against women migrant workers” (document A/78/292), found that while migration can promote agency and economic empowerment of women, increased restrictions and other risks make them vulnerable to violence. Exploitation and abuse are rooted in multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination exacerbated by global crises as well as increasing anti-migrant rhetoric and nationalist populism. The report concludes with a set of recommendations and concrete measures to eliminate violence against women migrant workers, he said.
Turning to the second report, “Improvement of the situation of women and girls in rural areas” (document A/78/220), he noted that it reviews Member States’ policies to improve the situation of women and girls in rural areas in a context of global crises and noted promising initiatives, which could be scaled up for widespread and lasting change. Programmes addressed food security, social protection coverage and building climate resilience. In addition, the report calls attention to women’s access to land as well.
The third report, “Improvement on the status of women in the United Nations system” (document A/78/206), showed that women’s representation in “professional” and higher positions increased from 43 per cent to 47 per cent between 2019 and 2021, he said, adding that parity had been reached in Headquarters locations. However, overall progress is uneven, with women underrepresented in middle or senior management levels and in mission settings. Changing representation means changing culture, he said, noting that field-specific guidelines are contained in the report.
Regarding the fourth report, “Measures taken and progress achieved in follow-up to and implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly” (document A/78/216), he said it addresses how selected initiatives at the UN integrate a gender perspective, focusing on General Assembly resolutions as well as the Economic and Social Council. The report also provides an overview of the contributions of UN‑Women, he said.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, delegates warned that recent years have been challenging for women’s advancements. They outlined various initiatives their Governments are undertaking to promote women’s rights and their social, political and economic advancements. Speakers also underscored the critical role of UN—Women in accomplishing such goals. They further highlighted the plight of older women, women migrants and women living in Ukraine and Afghanistan.
The representative of the United States said UN‑Women plays a critical role in addressing the most pressing global challenges of our time. The global pandemic, ongoing instability and conflict, and continued acts of aggression and oppression have caused substantial backsliding in gender equality and global progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She asked how UN‑Women will prevent further backsliding in women’s advancement globally.
Romania’s representative asked UN‑Women to elaborate and share measures that Member States could take at the grassroots level to fight embedded stereotypes and domestic violence and empower rural women in their communities.
The representative of Poland, associating herself with the European Union delegation’s statement to be delivered, said that the unjustified war by the Russian Federation against Ukraine has created 6 million refugees, many of which are women. Many of those women are subjected to the risk of human trafficking, sexual and gender-based violence, sexual abuse and forced labor. She asked UN—Women about its priorities and objectives for the coming year as regards to its work for women and girls in conflict situations.
Colombia’s representative asked UN‑Women about using disaggregated data to better inform the public. She said it would be useful if UN‑Women could share examples where they have identified a specific form of discrimination against rural women or migrant women workers.
The representative of the European Union delegation, speaking in its capacity as observer, said that in Ukraine, women and girls face heightened risk of sexual and gender-based violence because of the Russian Federation’s war of aggression. In Afghanistan, the world is witnessing systematic violations of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls, and in Sudan, women and girls have been subjected to various forms of violence including rape, sexual slavery and sexual exploitation and abuse. How will UN‑Women work to ensure that the Beijing Platform for Action (Beijing+30) events complement potential commitments and outcomes of next year’s International Conference on Population and Development, she asked.
Mr. SEYMOUR, responding to the query on how to prevent backsliding of women’s rights, said that this issue requires a whole-system approach. This includes implementation of the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other standards. Reaching out to various stakeholders, including the private sector, faith-based organizations, civil society and Member States “in a sort of virtuous collaboration” is critical.
On the question regarding Beijing+30, he said that the international community must collectively find the highest common denominator and “our role as UN—Women will be to facilitate that” with Member States. Recent years have proven challenging in governmental spaces to arrive at agreed conclusions, he added. “Challenges are inherent in our partnership work,” he continued, but challenges are very much around creating spaces for convening, facilitating and enabling collaboration between different kinds of stakeholders. Working with men and boys at the local level has been critical as well, he added.
Ms. NARVÁEZ, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, highlighted a programme of work by the Committee in the past year that included holding dialogues with 24 States Parties in Geneva and adopted concluding observations on their reports. The Committee also acted on 11 individual complaints, finding violations of the authors’ rights in cases that included obstetric violence, non-refoulement and the failure to provide gender-sensitive drug therapy and rehabilitation to a pregnant woman, and discrimination against a rural woman human rights defender in a land dispute.
Among the Committee’s work on general recommendations, she highlighted the adoption of guidance to States in relation to the rights of Indigenous women and girls. The guidance acknowledges that Indigenous women and girls face intersecting forms of discrimination based on sex, gender and Indigenous status, and calls on States to prevent, prohibit and punish all forms of gender-based violence against Indigenous women and girls, including human rights defenders and human rights activists. It also urges States to promote their “meaningful and informed participation in political and public life”, she said.
Ongoing work by the Committee includes the elaboration of a general recommendation — No. 40 — on the equal and inclusive representation of women in decision-making systems, which is scheduled to be adopted in the fall of 2024 to coincide with the Summit of the Future, she said. It will make recommendations to different levels of governance and the private sector to reach parity between women and men in decision-making by 2030, stressing that equal participation is a crucial factor in overcoming global challenges such as climate change, protracted conflicts and economic crises.
Regarding women, peace and security, she said the Committee remains “deeply concerned that sexual violence continues to be used as means of warfare in armed conflicts worldwide”. She said the Committee continues to monitor the situation of women and girls affected by the war against Ukraine and issued recommendations in October 2022 to the State Party to protect and promote women’s rights, including those in conflict-affected areas and among internally displaced women. The Committee also provided information about women and girls in Afghanistan, and continues to consult with relevant rights mechanisms, including the Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls.
Over the past year, the Committee also continued to streamline and harmonize its working methods with those of other treaty bodies, the Chair said. She cited cooperation with the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which includes the endorsement of a joint statement on safeguarding girls’ lives through minimizing unwanted pregnancies and guaranteeing safe access to abortion, issued on the International Day of the Girl Child, 11 October.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, delegates welcomed work conducted by CEDAW on new recommendations providing State parties with guidance on reaching equal and inclusive representation of women in decision-making. On access to sexual and reproductive health, the representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said conflicts around the world continue to exacerbate challenges and barriers facing women and girls globally, asking what States can do to mitigate risks for women and girls in vulnerable situations.
Adding to that, the representative of Mexico emphasized that multiple and intersecting forms of violence and discrimination impact entire society. He then asked about the most effective strategy the Committee believes can avoid backsliding, ensuring that women live free, without discrimination and stereotypes.
Japan’s delegate asked Ms. Narváez to share ideas for any possible collaboration between CEDAW and the Third Committee.
Switzerland’s delegate, meanwhile, asked about ways to ensure that new technologies will strengthen the participation of women in decision-making processes.
On gender equality, China’s delegate highlighted that her country has established 100 laws and regulations to safeguard women’s rights and ensure their economic and social development, high sense of fulfilment and security. She also emphasized that the Committee should be fact-based, respect information provided by concerned countries, discard ideological prejudice and avoid politicizing human rights issues.
Echoing that sentiment, the representative of the Russian Federation underscored that general comments voiced by the Committee are the private opinion of its experts and do not impose any additional obligations on States. He also called on the Committee to refrain from using non-consensus-based language in its terminology.
Ms. NARVÁEZ responded that, to address the issue of cybersecurity, the Committee has appointed a focal point for the issue of cyberviolence. She also highlighted the importance of addressing gender-based violence against women and providing guidance to States on specific issues, especially regarding harmful practices.
Ms. ESTRADA-TANCK, Chair of the Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls, highlighted two recent reports. The first, “Gendered inequalities of poverty: feminist and human rights-based approaches”, presented to the Human Rights Council last June, found that women and girls are disproportionately represented among those living in poverty worldwide, as a result of “blatant systemic failures leading to a vicious cycle of exclusion and discrimination”.
The COVID‑19 pandemic and other crises have resulted in the first rise in income inequality between countries in a generation, with women and girls being particularly affected in many countries and regions, she said. Women and girls’ inequality and poverty are the result of historical and continuing economic policy choices at the global, regional and national levels. Policies have been developed within patriarchal systems, she said, that “ignore the specific experiences and rights of girls and women while privileging the dominant forms of male and corporate power that perpetuate existing hierarchies”.
She said the present moment affords an opportunity to revisit concepts of unlimited economic growth, often based on deeply embedded forms of discrimination. “Crucially, poverty and inequality are not inevitable. As one woman put it, ‘We are not poor, we are being impoverished.’” Most mainstream approaches to the issues, she stressed, focus on a small number of rights associated with work, financial inclusion and women’s entrepreneurship, rather than analysing systems of power that generate unequal gender relations within families, communities, institutions and markets. She said the report calls for a feminist, human rights-based economy that enables and constructs substantive equality and socioeconomic and environmental justice. “We have the opportunity to reconsider an economic model that prioritizes unlimited economic growth and to substitute it for one that places social justice, human rights and women and girls, the half of humanity, at the centre.”
The second study, the joint report on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, presented to the Human Rights Council in June, found that institutionalized inequality and gender-based discrimination in Afghanistan is without parallel anywhere in the world, she said. The oppressive context is placing extreme pressures on women and their families and exacerbating problems, including domestic violence and gender-related killings. “Since taking power in August 2021, the de facto authorities have relentlessly issued edict after edict, of which the vast majority restrict the rights of women and girls, including their rights to education, work, health, access to justice and freedom of movement, attire and behaviour.”
The Chair concluded by saying that Afghan women and girls urgently need unwavering commitment and concrete actions from the international community. “We cannot turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed by the de facto authorities. We have a collective responsibility to act now before it is too late.”
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, delegates expressed alarm over the rollback of women’s rights worldwide as well as rampant discrimination and anti-genderism — particularly in online contexts. Speakers sought solutions to such scourges, while sharing national initiatives in their respective countries. The representative of Spain said that poverty affecting women and girls is a systemic failure, resulting from historic discrimination and exclusion. She asked how a feminist economy based on human rights can put an end to poverty for women and girls.
The representative of Brazil voiced support for the adoption of measures to reduce poverty for women and girls, adding that gender-responsive protection mechanisms and free access to health care are priorities for Brazil. The country is also in the midst of elaborating a policy to address the right to care, she said, asking the Rapporteur to share good practices in that regard.
The representative of Slovenia said that for many women and girls, political and economic rights seem out of reach, asking how the international community can address factors that contribute to women and girls living in poverty, including access to land, health care and family planning.
The representative of North Macedonia noted that pushback against women’s rights is global, including in developed countries. Worse, initiatives spreading anti-genderism and discrimination against women are better funded and aided by new technologies. How can the international community address this problem with concrete actions, especially in regard to social media?
The representative of the European Union, speaking in its capacity as observer, said the bloc is looking to step up its support for feminist movements and tackle gender-specific poverty, highlighting several policies in that regard. She then asked how the international community might improve its support for Afghan civil society and its human rights defenders.
The representative of Mexico noted that poverty overwhelmingly affects women worldwide. Voicing concern over the issue, she asked about best practices to address the issue, while ensuring an intersectional approach. In response, Ms. ESTRADA-TANCK thanked Mexico for its continued support, underscoring the importance of country visits. Visits give the group the opportunity to listen to women on the ground, particularly migrants and young girls, she added, which is a strategy to involve them in decision-making. Listening to women who are in poverty, stateless, from diverse backgrounds, LGBTQI or belonging to other marginalized groups is an important intersectional approach to place them at the centre of policies affecting them. Encouraging the international community to apply the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, she noted that its text addresses ways to incorporate care work into the economy, adding that it is important to look not only at the floor, but at the ceiling in addressing gendered wealth disparity. Targeted fiscal measures such as debt cancellation address gendered poverty as well.
In 2018, an alarm was sounded on the gender backlash, and since then such rhetoric has materialized in several countries, including Afghanistan. What is occurring in the country is a true test of the multilateral system, she said, warning that if the system fails to draw a clear red line or act to support women and girls there — codifying gender apartheid and what it means, for instance — the system will allow for further degradation of those rights worldwide. Long-term and flexible funding is another way to support women in Afghanistan, she added. The gender equality movement must be combined with the social and environmental justice movements, she stressed, noting that bringing human dignity and women’s rights to the centre must remain a priority for the international community.
Ms. Alsalem, presenting her second thematic report to the General Assembly (General Assembly resolution 77/193, paragraph 15, and Human Rights Council resolution 50/7, paragraph 2), said women and girls continue to be killed on the basis of their gender and are rendered more vulnerable to femicide when intersecting with other grounds or identities. They continue to be unable to organize, believe or speak freely; when they do, they suffer the consequences. In some countries, concerning regressions in their ability to access education, move freely and access sexual and reproductive health can be observed. These regressions are happening while the world navigates multiple crises of war, climate change, poverty and pandemics that clearly have a gendered impact and affect women and girls unequally.
Citing the persistence of gender-discriminatory nationality laws as “a manifestation of the challenges in achieving true gender equality”, she said gender equality cannot be achieved without ensuring that women and girls can enjoy their fundamental human rights and participate in society equally. Freedom from discrimination starts with the enjoyment of a nationality and equality as citizens. Today, 50 countries continue to have nationality laws that contain gender-discriminatory provisions, and in 24 of those countries, women are denied the right to confer nationality on their children on an equal basis with men.
Further, sex- and gender-based discrimination in nationality laws is one of the major causes of statelessness, she continued, adding that discriminatory nationality laws and statelessness mutually reinforce each other and have pronounced gendered consequences for women and girls that remain underexplored. “Make no mistake: statelessness and gender-discriminatory nationality laws are tantamount to violence against women, as they constitute severe forms of discrimination against women and girls,” she asserted. They result in a vicious circle of human rights failures and violations, directly and indirectly exacerbating psychological, sexual and physical violence.
She spotlighted negative impacts of the above-mentioned practices, such as obstacles in registering births, passing women’s nationality to spouses or children and accessing essential services. Indeed, these obstacles complicate the custody of children and decreased women and girls’ protection and participation in society. More importantly, the collective disadvantages resulting from statelessness and gender-discriminatory nationality laws can expose women and girls to further exploitation and abuse, including domestic violence, child marriage, trafficking and arbitrary detention.
Accordingly, she called on States to uphold the objective of fundamental human rights obligations, including by lifting reservations to relevant articles in the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women that guarantee these rights. She also called on States to sign the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Detailing initiatives undertaken by States to remedy this injustice for women, girls and their families, she said reforms succeed when they consciously involve the wider society, including victims, communities and religious leaders as well as relevant international organizations.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, delegates said that statelessness presents a particular challenge as it relates to the rights of women and girls. They expressed the need for improved legislative frameworks among some Member States and pointed out that those without citizenship-based protections are particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence.
The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, noted that statelessness and discriminatory citizenship laws are a particular challenge to women and girls, adding that the European Unionsupports the prevention of child statelessness outside its borders by helping partner countries with registration systems and promoting birth registration.
She pointed out that one recommendation of the report is to improve the legislative framework to combat gender-based violence against stateless women and girls, and to ensure legislation prohibiting domestic violence addresses statelessness and nationality-related concerns. She asked the Rapporteur for an example of best practices in this regard.
The representative of Croatia, aligning herself with the European Union, said that her country is introducing femicide as a new criminal offense and increasing the punishment for crimes such as rape and other gender-based violence. She also asked the Special Rapporteur if there is more to be done in that regard.
The representative of Syria said he had difficulty understanding the link between statelessness and sexual violence. He also said there were political reasons why Syrian Palestinian women are not given nationality. They can go back to Palestine when the occupation is over, he said. He also expressed his concern that some European countries are taking nationalities away from foreign fighters and their families.
The representative of the Dominican Republic, meanwhile, took issue with the report, saying that his country’s Constitution guarantees against discrimination and that there are no cases of statelessness of any kind there. Regarding migrants from Haiti, 36 percent of hospital beds are set aside for Haitian women, he said.
The representative of Pakistan said that, in Kashmir, women are deprived of their nationality and forced to register as Indian, adding that 2 million people in Assam, many of them Muslim women, remain stateless.
The representative of India rejected Pakistan’s statement, saying that the reference to a national register of citizens in Assam is inaccurate and irrelevant. She strongly condemned abuse of the United Nations platform by Pakistan to spread what she called “malicious propaganda”.
The representative of Mexico brought up the subject of “parental alienation”, which she said undermines women in custody battles. She appealed to Member States to eliminate prejudices in their legal systems and asked what the most pressing challenges are in defining and eliminating the concept of parental alienation.
The representative of Estonia, speaking on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic countries, highlighted the importance of including men and boys as partners in efforts to prevent and combat gender-based violence. He went on to ask the Special Rapporteur how to better focus on existing causes of violence against women and girls.
The representative of the Russian Federation pointed out the section in the report pertaining to Latvia. One should also address the situation of non-citizens in Latvia who are deprived of their full human rights, he said.
Responding, Ms. ALSALEM thanked the representatives for their “strong engagement”, agreeing with Estonia that there is a new frontier and manifestation of violence against women and girls, in part driven by technology. To a question from Cuba and Bangladesh, she said that intersectional approaches to migrant women have failed, highlighting the importance of ensuring the adequate reception mechanisms and support of those fleeing gender-based persecution, for example from Afghanistan, she said.
Regarding the issue raised by Mexico concerning “parental alienation” she said it was key to keep the best interests of the child in mind and pointed out that many women flee the countries they reside in because they cannot protect their children against abusive partners. She also acknowledged the point raised by Syria, stating that there is a gendered aspect to how countries deal with the issue of foreign fighters. The mere association as wives, mothers or daughters of alleged foreign fighters can lead to the arbitrary removal of their nationality, which in turn means being kept in camps in inhuman conditions and exposed to violence and other abuses, she said.
ELLENI HENOK AREGA (Ethiopia), speaking on behalf of the African Group, underscored challenges faced by rural women and girls and by women and girls in statelessness situations. These women bear the brunt of continuing challenges and vulnerabilities and are not part of any form of decision-making mechanisms. The 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, the African Union Convention on Internally Displaced Persons, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Agenda 2063 of the African Union are breakthrough plans that are intended to reach out to the needs of the most vulnerable. Realizing the human rights and fundamental freedoms of rural women and girls and those in statelessness requires renewed commitments, increased investments and significantly greater financing from all sources, she continued.
Income disparities, labour market discrimination, high unemployment and a high incidence of poverty persist among rural women and girls and those facing statelessness, she said. “It is of utmost importance to empower all women including rural women and those in statelessness,” she stressed. Vocational and tertiary training are a must. She emphasized the need to focus on rural women and girls who cannot enjoy decent work due to lack of skills, poor quality of education and lack of technology. Special attention must also be paid to those women who cannot own land and other productive resources and cannot access international markets for their products. Women and girls who live their lives in war‑torn economies and are excluded from participating in post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding processes must have a seat at the decision-making table.
HEDDA SAMSON, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said that reaching gender equality and ensuring full and equal enjoyment of human rights for women and girls are shared goals for her bloc, but also globally. While noting progress in achieving gender equality in areas such as the representation of women in leadership positions, she expressed concern that advancements do not apply consistently. “We are witnessing a severe backlash against gender equality, with regressions in the enjoyment of their right to education, and participation in public and political life,” she said. Women and girls continue to be disproportionally affected by poverty, and in large parts of the world, women are excluded from social and economic opportunities. Meanwhile, gender-based violence proliferates, and the gender digital divide widens.
She expressed concern that progress towards the SDGs at a global level has “proven insufficient so far” despite strong commitments. “At this critical midpoint, none of the indicators on SDG 5 on gender equality are met or almost met.” She emphasized that gender equality is a fundamental principle and a political priority that “must be integrated into all policies and actions”. Furthermore, it is also a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. She stressed that the Union is committed to achieving all the SDGs by 2030 and has made significant strides towards promoting the empowerment and full, equal and meaningful participation of women and girls in all spheres of life. The bloc, she said, will “continue to act as a global leader in respecting, protecting and fulfilling of human rights, promoting gender equality and the rule of law”.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), speaking on behalf of a group of countries, expressed alarm that women and girls are denied their rights, including access to education and public life in Afghanistan. Women are being stripped of their livelihoods and of their future in what could be considered “gender persecution”, she said. Urging the Taliban to reverse policies and decrees that abuse the rights of women and girls, she said those decisions run contrary to UN basic principles, calling on the Government to respect its commitments on the rights of women in all treaties to which Afghanistan is party. The situation for women and girls is appalling, she stressed, noting that they are prohibited in parks and much of public life, adding that such restrictions run counter to Islam itself.
She detailed that women are prohibited from working for non-governmental organizations and the UN, thus blocking access to humanitarian assistance. Her group deplores the denial of education for girls beyond primary education, which deepens entrenched inequalities, she added, calling on the Taliban to start a political process to enable women and girls to participate in Afghanistan’s future, with justice and accountability for these human rights abuses, for which a trauma-informed, victim-centred approach is necessary, she said. The group will remain united with the women and girls of Afghanistan until their human rights and dignity are restored, she said.
BRIAN CHRISTOPHER MANLEY (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the world will not achieve gender equality by 2030, and in fact will be nowhere close to that goal. At the current rate of progress, it will take up to 286 years to close gaps in legal protection and remove discriminatory laws, 140 years for women to be represented equally in positions of power and leadership in the workplace and 47 years to achieve equal representation in national parliaments — “grim predictions” that require drastic action, he said.
One in three women is globally subjected to physical and/or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime, he said, adding that technology has exacerbated the problem with online harassment, particularly on social media, increasing dramatically. To achieve gender equality requires the eradication of poverty, the removal of discriminatory laws and practices, mobilization of resources and more advocacy as well as community outreach.
SURIYA CHINDAWONGSE (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said “enormous progress” has been made to achieve gender equality. “But this is still not enough. We cannot stop working until gender quality and the empowerment of all women and girls becomes a reality for all.” As a first priority, ASEAN recognizes that gender mainstreaming warrants a “gender-responsive and gender-based approach across all fronts from education to environment, culture and health to peace and security”, he said. ASEAN is leading by example, including in areas such as disaster management. On the peace and security front, the ASEAN defence sector is committed to advancing the Women, Peace and Security agenda into practical cooperation. Separately, on legal matters and judicial cooperation, the bloc is working to enhance gender-responsive treatment for women prisoners, he said. Most recently, the convening of the ASEAN Gender Mainstreaming Conference in July has given further impetus to the commitment.
Secondly, ASEAN is committed to strengthening family resilience based on a gender-equality and women-empowerment approach that highlights an equal partnership between women and men, and girls and boys, in achieving inclusive and sustainable regional development, he said. The recently adopted ASEAN Declaration on Gender Equality and Family Development aims to strengthen women’s empowerment, gender equality and inclusive sustainable growth by increasing opportunities for girls and women in education and increasing investments to reduce the burden of unpaid care work for women and girls. Third, the bloc highly values the collaboration between ASEAN and the UN for the advancement of women and gender equality. He gave as an example the collaboration with UN-Women to build capacity for gender data collection and analysis to track progress on the SDGs.
EGRISELDA ARACELY GONZÁLEZ LÓPEZ (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Central American Integration System, said that treaties and norms have guided the national policies of the region. The region has also adopted measures that aim to ensure gender equality and equity in all sectors. All women and girls must be empowered for them to achieve their full rights and for these countries to achieve the SDGs. Violence in all its forms, however, limits the full exercise of universal human rights. The exclusion of women and girls in various sectors, including technology, must be overcome. Obstacles to accessing the digitalization arena limit women’s and girls’ potential. Moreover, cybercrime constitutes an emerging threat to women and girls. Women have a right to a life free of violence both in the private and public spheres. There should also be a special emphasis on real access to justice.
One of the most concerning issues is the increase in child and teen pregnancies, she continued, noting how early pregnancies are linked to the possibility of complications during labor. “Women are active protagonists in the development of our people,” she added, stressing the need to ensure professional development and instruments that facilitate the equitable integration of rural women in employment opportunities. Indigenous women are defenders of land and natural resources. They are promoters of sustainable development. “We need renewed commitment and improved policies as well as greater funding in order to leave no woman or girl behind,” she went on to say.
NOAH OEHRI (Liechtenstein) said “we cannot effectively address and overcome pressing challenges like climate change and armed conflict as long as half of the world’s population does not enjoy equal rights and opportunities”. This lack of advancement also translates into the striking underrepresentation of women in leadership positions, he said, adding that only 21 women leaders stood at the rostrum of the General Assembly Hall during this year’s General Debate — merely 11 per cent of all speakers. He further spotlighted that two years after the military coup in Myanmar and takeover of the Taliban in Afghanistan women and girls continue to suffer disproportionally under the respective regimes in place. Due to rising violence and fear from mass arrests and summary executions, women in Myanmar face increasing difficulties accessing basic health-care services and struggle to secure sufficient income. In Afghanistan, women and girls have been barred from education while continuing to face an ever-growing list of restrictions on their lives. In Iran, those who bravely protested restrictive veiling laws are facing increasing levels of gender-based persecution, he observed.
MEGAN WHITE (United Kingdom) said multiple global crises, from conflict to climate change, disproportionately impact women and girls. These attempts threaten hard-won progress towards gender equality. “We must all step up, with increased ambition, to promote and protect the rights of all women and girls,” she added. The United Kingdom is focusing on educating girls, empowering women and girls and championing their health and rights as well as ending gender-based violence. If women had the same role in labour markets as men, an estimated $28 trillion could be added to global gross domestic product in 2025. Women with access to sexual and reproductive health services are more likely to complete their education and contribute to the growth of their families and countries. Spotlighting estimates that show 1 in 3 women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime, she urged Member States to do more to change this statistic.
FLAVIA VMULISA (Rwanda), aligning with the African Group, expressed concern that the limited inclusion of women in decision-making persists as a critical issue globally. Worldwide, women parliamentarians account for just 26 per cent of the total. Sexual and gender-based violence remains a significant barrier to the advancement of women and girls worldwide. Amongst its achievements, she said Rwanda continues to invest in innovative prevention strategies that address the root causes of inequality and enact laws to combat violence and provide integrated services to victims of such violence. While challenges persist, Rwanda’s journey “underscores the vital role of unwavering political will and leadership in achieving a world where women and men, girls and boys, all enjoy equal rights, access to resources, opportunities and protection”.
CATHERINE MOGAKA (Kenya), aligning with the “Group of 77” and China and the African Group, underlined the importance of gender equality for the attainment of the SDGs and identified barriers — such as discrimination, violence, and unequal access to land, health care and political participation – to achieving them. To that end, the country has mainstreamed a gender perspective and adopted a raft of policies addressing gender equality as well as ending harmful cultural practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation. Over $2 million has been disbursed in the country’s efforts to encourage women in the economy, she added, noting that a generation of young women is eager to enter politics following the 2022 general elections. The country promotes women as agents of change in the fight against climate change, she added, calling for increased collaboration with other States and the private sector to collectively create a more just world for women and girls.
CONNOR TIEMAN (New Zealand) said that gender equality and women’s empowerment are key human rights priorities for New Zealand. He noted that the country has sought to further promote, protect and strengthen the rights of women and girls in all their diversity in the Third Committee’s current session. “This is particularly important as these rights are increasingly challenged worldwide,” he said, stressing that New Zealand is deeply concerned with increased push-back globally on sexual and reproductive health and rights as well as regression in legislation, jurisprudence, freedoms and restricted access to services. Together with an increase in sexual and gender-based violence, it undermines hard-won gains in women’s rights and threatens internationally agreed standards and principles. He said States must strengthen protections and urged recognition for discrimination that impacts Indigenous, culturally and linguistically diverse women and girls, as well as the LGBTQIA+ community, those with a disability or who are forcibly displaced.
ANNETTE LUDWIG (Germany), aligning herself with the European Union, said that the worsening climate crisis, COVID‑19 pandemic, Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, inflation and looming recession have exacerbated existing gender gaps. The international community must redouble its efforts to ensure that women and girls have equal representation, the same rights and equal access to resources and that they enjoy a life free from violence, she said, adding that Germany will adopt a gender equality check when passing laws and has adopted a feminist approach to foreign and development policies. Everyone who is pushed to society’s margin needs to be the focus of global attention, she said, adding that Germany is committed to supporting LGBTQI+ rights.
RAWA ZOGHBI (Lebanon) highlighted that, during the 2023 general debate of the high-level week, nine men spoke for every woman: “To be more specific, only 21 speakers were women compared to 174 men.” In addition, the United Nations — which should be leading by example — has never had a female Secretary-General, and only four women — compared to 74 men — have served as President of the General Assembly. Each year around the world, 245 million women and girls aged 15 and older are victims of physical or sexual violence perpetrated by an intimate partner. In Lebanon, the National Commission for Lebanese Women, together with UN Women and civil society organizations, are deploying efforts to mobilize partners, stakeholders, individuals and the public at large to address and prevent violence against women and girls. Furthermore, she spotlighted that her Government has been successfully implementing its first National Action Plan, with growing participation of women in its Armed Forces and Security Forces.
RICHARD ARBEITER (Canada) said that equality is not something to be bartered or caveated, noting that respecting the rights of women and girls is non-negotiable. Canada will remain a voice for women and girls in all their diversity, he added, voicing support for the statement delivered by the United Arab Emirates, calling on Afghanistan to reverse its edicts. The promotion of the rights of women and girls must be aligned with Goal 5 of the SDGs, he said, noting that there has been backsliding globally, as authoritarian regimes restrict the rights of women and girls. Canada will continue to champion them, he added, stressing that women’s rights and civil society organizations are essential to gender equality, which includes access to sexual and reproductive health. Canada is proud to invest in women’s rights organizations and will continue to champion the advancement of women.
PAMELA ESCOBAR VARGAS, youth delegate of Mexico, highlighted the importance of leaving no one behind, especially girls or women, reaffirming the commitment to human rights of girls and women. Among the advances in this regard, she said, was last month’s decision by the Supreme Court of Mexico to decriminalize the termination of pregnancies, which vindicates the sexual and reproductive rights of women. She recognized the historic and structural challenges that all women and girls face, observing that, at the current pace, it will take 131 years to close the global gender gap, according to the World Economic Forum. She also noted with concern that there is a polarization with regards to the rights of women and girls and cited the continued existence of such cruel practices as female genital mutilation. Without women and girls, no future is possible, she said, adding that their rights are non-negotiable.
CARLA MARIA RODRIGUEZ MANCIA (Guatemala), associating herself with the Central American Integration System and a group of countries promoting the rights of girls and women in Afghanistan, said that gender discrimination continues to impede the achievement of the SDGs. Access to justice is essential for the realization of all women’s and girls’ rights and is a critical part of the rule of law and good governance. Women and girls have a right to be free of violence. The full involvement of women in decision-making processes is essential. That includes their participation in reconstruction and institution-building mechanisms. Turning to migration, she said the phenomenon disproportionately affects women and girls, as they are more exposed to violence and other scourges. An integrated and coordinated response from the international community is essential to that end. Guatemala is committed to the protection of women in all international arenas and mechanisms, she added.
The representative of Thailand, associating with the Group of 77 and China and ASEAN, said discrimination, gender biases and stereotypes persist today and remain a key challenge for women and girls. She urged working together to accelerate progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5, concerning gender equality, “so that no one, including women and girls, is left behind”. She stressed that Thailand recognizes the fundamental role of women in politics and public decision-making at all levels. Secondly, she said more must be done to promote women’s economic participation. Thirdly, as technology continues increasingly to shape lives, the theme of the sixty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women on innovation and technological change and education in the digital age is “very timely”. Thailand strongly supports women’s voices in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, and plans to continue to cooperate with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to organize events to mark the Girls in Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) Day.
CHARIS CHONG (Singapore), aligning with ASEAN, said the small city-State remains steadfastly committed to ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women, which is reflected in the Constitution as well as legislation such as the Women’s Charter. Gender equality must start early, she said, highlighting that all children in Singapore have access to education. There are promising figures. For example, 41 per cent of tech professionals are women, well above the global average of 28 per cent. But, the Government does not take progress for granted, he said, spotlighting several policies addressing working mothers, violence against women on and offline, family violence, workplace discrimination and the elimination of stereotypes. Singapore is honoured and humbled to have been listed as the top Asian country for gender equality and seventh worldwide but will continue to build a fairer and more inclusive society, in line with realizing the 2030 Agenda, she said.
JONATHAN DAVID PASSMOOR (South Africa), aligning with the African Group, underscored that women need to be emancipated from all forms of oppression. His Government continues to base its international actions and decisions on the collective gender-focused commitments made in the 2030 Agenda and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. It does so by implementing gender-responsive policies that empower women, he said, stressing the need to create an environment of gender equity and parity, with policies based on gender equality. Violence against women remains high and women feel more unsafe than they did before the pandemic. In this regard, he underscored that the achievement of the SDGs depends fundamentally on the empowerment of women in all spheres of life. Further, women’s economic empowerment is critical to addressing gender inequalities, he pointed out, calling for adequate financing to support that aim.
GILLES BAUWENS (Belgium) said that the clear goal is women and girl’s equal participation in decision-making, at all levels and in all domains. However, the rise of hate speech and misinformation that women leaders face leads to restricted freedom of expression, self-censorship and withdrawal from public spaces. He called on all countries to stop the widespread pattern of misogyny and violence and detailed further priorities for women’s advancement, including the elimination of structural barriers and access to sexual and reproductive health services, as well as safe abortion and comprehensive sexuality education. To that end, knowledge and insight based on the collection and analysis of data disaggregated by sex, gender and other characteristics are required. He underscored that, above all, full gender equality requires political will, dialogue and cooperation.
SHIR AVIEL, youth delegate of Israel, aligning with the joint statement of Australia and the United Arab Emirates, underlined that the country holds the rights of women and girls of utmost importance. This year, a new ministry was established supporting the advancement of women through policies and programmes — the “follow me” programme, for example, which promotes female leadership in public life. The “In Her Way” programme promotes independence for survivors of domestic violence. Being equipped with training from Google and psychosocial support through the programme, they are integrated into the technology sector, she said. Advancement of women does not only exist in the economic sphere, she added, underscoring that women must enjoy full sexual and reproductive rights. Moreover, the international community must push back against gender stereotypes, with men and boys acting as allies, she said.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) stated that his country has introduced legal and policy measures to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women, but the COVID‑19 pandemic and floods that hit Pakistan in 2022 have further compounded the challenges to realizing them. He questioned how the UN system could assist individual developing countries in transforming recommendations into actual development and “quality of life” outcomes for women and girls, noting that the major and pervasive challenge is the paucity of adequate financing. “We believe that a deeper survey and study can offer conclusions of both a general and specific nature that could lead to a transformative leap in advancing women and girls’ rights.” He suggested collecting data to further identify and understand the challenges faced by women and to build “effective policy responses and actions”.
FABIÁN ODDONE (Argentina) aligned himself with the statement by the United Arab Emirates on women and girls in Afghanistan and expressed his strong commitment to a fair society with equal opportunities for girls and women. In the arena of foreign policy, his country has appointed a special representative on sexual orientation and gender identities to drive forward the rights of LGBTQI+ people in the region and the world, he said. Under national law, the State should guarantee that at least one per cent of its workforce is made up of transexual and transgender people, he said, adding that Argentina foresees national identity documents that recognize non-binary identities. He expressed concern about the anti-gender and anti-trans movements gathering speed all over the world, even at the United Nations. Speech against gender equality and against trans movements is hate speech and harmful to democracy, he said.
LE SHUANG (China), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, urged the need to prioritize development and improve women’s well-being. Women’s participation in poverty reduction, health and sanitation, and digital connectivity must be enhanced. Empowering women through innovation is an urgent task of the international community. “We must carry out holistic policymaking and eradicate violence against women,” she said, stressing the need to remove gender discrimination bias. Effective measures must be geared towards tackling human trafficking. China supports the UN in stepping up efforts in women’s advancement and in promoting knowledge-sharing. China strives to improve its legal system to comprehensively guarantee women’s rights. It has been undertaking efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women, and it continues to stand ready with the international community to contribute to women’s empowerment.
ARIEL RODELAS PEÑARANDA (Philippines), aligning with ASEAN and the Group of 77, said that CEDAW had been integrated domestically into the country’s Magna Carta of Women, which supports equal opportunities and access to development resources. Highlighting policies to combat gender-based violence such as the Safe Spaces Act, he said the Philippines aims to protect women and girls on and offline. Reaffirming the Government’s commitment to women’s empowerment, he recalled that the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is a product of a woman-led peace process, resulting in the Bangsamoro Women Commission. Likewise, within the Government, all agencies set aside 5 per cent of their budgets to mainstream gender equality. The Philippines prioritizes combating trafficking in women and girls with a whole-of-society approach, he continued, noting that his country, with Indonesia, will again table the resolution on violence against women migrant workers and calling for its support.
ARAM HAKOBYAN (Armenia) said the advancement of women is key in tackling global challenges and ensuring women’s full participation in all spheres of public life. His Government pays special attention to their economic empowerment, especially those in rural areas, implementing gender-responsive regulations. He further advocated for the promotion of the role of women in conflict prevention, peacebuilding and related processes. On 19 September, Azerbaijan launched an attack against the civilian population of Nagorno-Karabakh, which resulted in the death of many civilians, including women and children. Within days of Azerbaijan’s military aggression, more than 100,000 persons — mostly women, children and elderly — were forcibly displaced and took refuge in Armenia, he said, voicing concern over the impact of these events on women’s advancement.
IRINA VELICHK (Belarus) said that, while gender stereotypes such as the glass ceiling or slippery floor still exist, women should determine their own fate. This is the case in Belarus, which ranks high among States in health and economic access. Further, civil society has a woman’s face. Women have been integrated into the labour market to improve unemployment and even outpace men in that regard. But no amount of money can make a woman as happy as motherhood. Calls in the West to not have children are a weapon to depopulate States. Belarus will continue to protect the family, with one mother and one father, as it will also defend the institution of marriage. Looking to the future, the country will continue to maintain a high level of equality for women.
MUHAMMAD AMMAR RAFFIQ RUSLAN (Malaysia), aligning himself with ASEAN, expressed his country’s commitment to improve women's lives through policies and plans with clear targets, indicators and time frames. Highlighting a policy which requires 30 per cent of top management positions to appoint women, he said this has been achieved in the public sector and is under way in the private sector. Also highlighting the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act adopted by the Malaysian parliament last year, he said it aims to create a secure working environment for women in the labour force. The Government is also enhancing access to quality early childhood care, educational services and affordable elderly care. Recalling a Malay proverb that loosely translates as “lumps of soil will amount to a mountain”, she said that such little steps will eventually contribute to a more inclusive society.
ANDREAS HADJICHRYSANTHOU (Cyprus), aligning himself with the European Union, said that according to the latest report on progress of the SDGs, none of five “gender equality” indicators are at “target met or almost met”. Femicide is the most brutal and extreme manifestations of violence against women and girls, he said, noting that last year, Cyprus adopted a law that makes it a distinct crime under the Criminal Code, and an aggravating factor during sentencing. Cyprus encourages Member States to acknowledge the existence of femicide and define gender-related killings in their national legal frameworks. Further, it encourages all States to develop strategies to prevent femicide. “Human rights cannot be a privilege of few,” he said.
LEONOR ZALABATA TORRES (Colombia) said that women are fundamental to achieving total peace, outlining various initiatives her Government is taking to ensure the advancement of women and girls. “We are revolutionizing peacebuilding,” she added. It is essential to understand that the main threats to general security and the security of women are restrictions imposed on the participation of women in peace processes. Women need “real power”, which involves political participation and access to education. Women are defenders of human rights and territorial rights. They must not put their lives in danger to contribute to such causes. Women should not be “secondary actors”, she continued, noting that Colombia celebrates diversity and inclusion and will continue to do so.
MERETE FJELD BRATTESTED (Norway) said women’s rights and gender equality are under attack because of global democratic backsliding. The rights of all to decide over their own bodies is a fundamental right — and a key priority for Norway, she said, adding that in many places, rights and norms are being weakened with devastating, real-life impacts for women and girls. She also pointed out that, at the current rate, it will take an estimated 300 years to end child marriage, 286 years to close gaps in legal protection and remove discriminatory laws and 47 years to achieve equal representation in national parliaments. Women and girls should not be viewed simply as victims of the challenges of our times. They are actors and the potential of half the population must be better utilized, she said, adding: “A just world is an equal world.”
FATEMEH ARAB BAFRANI (Iran) said her country is committed to the protection of the rights of women and girls, and it has promoted policies and budgets to in that regard. Ranking high among States in statistics on the right to education, Iranian women’s literacy has increased from 35 per cent before the 1979 Islamic revolution to 95 per cent today, while their access to higher education has increased twentyfold. The country employs a whole-of-society approach to empower women and girls and reduce poverty. To that end, it has supported women’s economic situation through bridging the digital divide. It also spearheaded programmes such as "Women of the Sanctions Generation", aimed at helping 500 women entrepreneurs who have been negatively affected by sanctions. Iran focuses particularly on female heads of households, she added, highlighting a national plan to boost women’s employment and entrepreneurship. Despite the country’s progress, unilateral coercive measures by the Unites States negatively affect the gains negatively.
STEPAN Y. KUZMENKOV (Russian Federation) said that ensuring gender equality and improving the status of women is a key undertaking facing the global community. He underscored the need for UN‑Women to strictly comply with its mandate to support and assist rather than provide the substantive content for the decisions of the intergovernmental organs of the United Nations system on the subject of women. Moreover, the project work of UN‑Women should be carried out upon the request and with the consent of the States in question. Russian women are focused on employment and career growth, but also on having and raising children, he said, adding that a priority for the State is to support mothers and offer material incentives to stimulate the birth rate.
NATASHA LEPAGE (Luxembourg) said that her country is the only member of the European Union to have achieved wage parity. Nevertheless, men are overrepresented in high-level positions, whereas women are underrepresented in managerial positions, including in the civil service. Yet, they are “key actors in our society”, and they must have the necessary means to participate in public life. Moreover, the balance between professional and private life is critical. Luxembourg’s parental leave makes it possible to choose a flexible system that is adapted to the needs of the new family. Both parents can take parental leave at the same time if they wish to do so. “In 2023, women should have the same salaries and opportunities as men,” she added.
MARWA JABOU BESSADOK (Tunisia) said that gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is a moral imperative, detailing Tunisia’s implementation of various programs to promote women’s entrepreneurship and financial inclusion. She also pointed to the lifting of all reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the unanimous adoption of the law on the elimination of violence against women. Other efforts include the creation of a National Observatory for Combating Violence against Women, establishment of specialist police teams and continued support to survivors of violence. How can the Universal Declaration for Human Rights be truly universal when half of humanity still suffer from daily violence, structural inequalities, discriminatory laws, social and economic exclusion, and underrepresentation in decision-making roles, she asked.
WAFIQAH KHALED NAJEEB A. ALMULLA (Kuwait) said the country will adhere to its commitments to the Beijing Declaration and Plan of Action. National legislation has been adopted to ensure gender equality and encourage economic autonomy, she said, adding that women in Kuwait enjoy protection under the civil code while salary equity has also been addressed through policy reform. The country is ambitiously prioritizing sustainable development, which cannot be achieved without women, as they represent a majority of those with university degrees. Moreover, they are well represented in the workforce, from the diplomatic service to the oil industry. She called on the international community to increase cooperation to achieve tangible results.
THOA THI MINH LE (Viet Nam), aligning with ASEAN, said that many women face health issues, economic challenges and gender-based violence. She recommended international cooperation to promote the role and participation of women and girls in all fields of life and to protect them from violence and discrimination. Also important was the inclusion of women in decision-making, especially in conflict prevention and settlement, and post-conflict reconstruction. She highlighted too the importance of helping women acquire digital skills, adding that women and girls should be supported in the study and pursuit of careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). In Viet Nam, 30.3 per cent of National Assembly Deputies are women. In the Ministries and ministerial-level agencies, female leaders account for 59 per cent.
SULAFA HAMID I. MOUSA (Saudi Arabia) said her delegation is convinced that women’s political, social, and economic empowerment is key to development. Saudi Arabia has adopted several reforms which aim to promote women’s rights and empowerment. “We have adopted and amended a number of legal frameworks to ensure equality among the sexes,” she said, noting the launch of an initiative to increase the women’s participation in the public and private spheres. Reforms have meant that Saudi Arabia has made progress on the international stage. Women in Saudi Arabia are leaders in the world in terms of occupying important positions. The first Arab Muslim astronaut is a woman, and she hoped this will serve as an inspiration to women and girls around the world. She looked forward to Saudi Arabia hosting a conference that will clarify the notion of women living under Sharia law.
NELLY BANAKEN (Cameroon) said that society guarantees the right of women to choose many things, such as their spouse and where to live. However, women do not choose their race or sex. There is no such thing as sex assigned at birth, just as there is no process that will turn a Black person into a Caucasian. No bodily intervention may change sex, she said, underscoring that attributing other meaning to “women” is not only erroneous, but dangerous. She lamented the century-plus timeline outlined by the Secretary-General to achieve full gender equality. Recalling global progress, challenges remain and access to gynaecological care is scarce in parts of the world. Female genital mutilation still occurs. Cameroon insists that the promotion of women’s rights through the development processes is the path forward. Her Government is resolute in its promotion of equality.
ALMAHA MUBARAK F. J. AL-THANI (Qatar) said that the advancement of women is important to promote human rights and highlighted her country’s adoption of policies to ensure gender equality in education, employment and health care. Qatar has a high number of women in the workforce and great salary equality, she said, adding that women with disabilities are included in all the care provided. “We are proud that Qatari women are competing with men in high-level positions in government and business,” she said, adding that the State of Qatar is one of the first countries of the Global South to allow women into traditional professions, for example to become judges. Today there is great representation of women in the judiciary. Qatar has made concerted efforts to empower women in every area of national life, she said, adding that digital use in education can help strengthen the empowerment of women.
CLAUDIO ERNESTO GARRIDO MELO (Chile) reiterated his commitment to move towards full and substantive equality. “We have adopted a feminist foreign policy,” he added, noting that Chile has identified the need to focus on equality, economic empowerment, and sexual and reproductive rights. Women face the unfair burden of unpaid work. By failing to address the additional burden of unpaid work that falls primarily on women, the world will miss out on a major opportunity to achieve social justice and sustainable development. Chile hopes to participate meaningfully in discussions that have a real impact on the lives of women and girls. Women and girls deserve an ambitious response in terms of policy to the various forms of violence and discrimination they face every day, he stressed.
SARAH AHMED AHMED AL-MASHEHARI (Yemen), said that, as one of the first countries to endorse the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, his Government holds human rights as primordial as long as they are claimed on equal ground. The country engages with civil society organizations to help women recover from the ramifications of war and ensure education and development, she said, adding that women will be included in the transitional justice process whose measures are laying the groundwork to work towards a new Yemen. However, Houthi terrorists continue to threaten women’s safety through kidnapping, extortion and torture, threatening freedom of movement and denying them access to quality education, which runs counter to the country’s support of women, she stressed.
VALÉRIE CHIARA WAGNER (Switzerland) said that the rights of women and girls are increasingly threatened. Even today, women risk reprisal simply because they stand up for their rights. She called on the international community to redouble efforts to implement an instrument to promote and implement women’s human rights. To ensure their protection, it is critical to “publicly condemn” the violence and discrimination that women face every day. Switzerland recognizes forced marriage as gender-based violence. As an elected member of the Security Council, Switzerland is committed to ensuring that the Council adopts this perspective as well. She also expressed support for the gender accreditation programme within the activities of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).