Calling himself “a proud feminist,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres lashed out at men who abuse power and declared before Sunday’s observances of International Women’s Day that the fight for gender equality is “the biggest human rights challenge we face.”
Twenty-five years after 189 countries adopted a 150-page road map for achieving equality for women, a new report by UN Women says the reality is that millions of women still face poverty, discrimination and violence. It notes over 70% of lawmakers and parliamentarians and managers are men and nearly 500,000 women and girls over the age of 15 are illiterate.
The U.N. Development Program’s new Gender Social Norms Index also had some bad news for women. It found that close to 90% of both men and women hold some sort of bias against women.
According to the index, about half the world’s men and women believe men make better political leaders and over 40% think men make better business executives and have greater rights to a job. Further, 28% feel it is justified for a husband to beat his wife.
Guterres told the U.N.’s International Women’s Day observance Friday that “gender inequality is the overwhelming injustice of our day.”
“Deep-rooted patriarchy and misogyny have created a yawning gender power gap in our economies, our political systems, our corporations, our societies and our culture,” he said. “Women are still very frequently denied a voice; their opinions are ignored and their experience discounted.”
The secretary-general cited examples in recent months, including high-profile peace agreements being signed with no women at the table and emergency health care meetings on the new coronavirus held with few or no women participating.
International Women’s Day is taking place a day before the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women holds a drastically scaled down one-day event so delegations in New York can adopt a draft political declaration commemorating the 25th anniversary of the 1995 U.N. conference in Beijing that adopted the wide-ranging plan to achieve gender equality.
The commission had been expecting up to 12,000 people from its 193 member nations to be at its annual meeting. But it decided to postpone the major event until a later date because of the spread of the COVID-19 virus.