UNITED NATIONS – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all men to fight discrimination against women because it harms communities, organizations, companies, economies and societies.
Guterres initiated discussions on Monday within the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which, as it does every year, will continue for two weeks, and on this occasion will focus on the empowerment of rural women.
The UN secretary-general, who describes himself as a “proud feminist,” recalled that this year the conference coincides with a “pivotal moment” for women, who “across the world are telling their stories and provoking important and necessary conversations – in villages and cities; in boardrooms and bedrooms; in the streets and in the corridors of power.”
Guterres reviewed the dismal statistics left by “centuries of patriarchy”: women occupy less than 30 percent of research and development jobs, only 20 percent of ambassadors to the United Nations are women, and at the latest Academy Awards, just six women won Oscars while 33 men took home statuettes.
“A girl born into poverty has a far higher chance of dropping out of school, marrying early, suffering complications during childbirth, experiencing violence, and passing this legacy on to her children,” the Portuguese secretary-general said.
He added that the women who face the greatest challenges are “widows, indigenous women, women with disabilities and women who do not conform to gender norms.”
He also included rural women, who are “particularly marginalized and may lack access to health care, education and technology,” despite often being “the backbone of their families and communities.”
Guterres said that since taking office in the UN, he has made a great effort to set change in motion, and for the first time gender parity has been achieved in the Senior Management Group. Last month there were 23 women and 21 men in the top leadership of the United Nations, while women now make up a third of the heads and deputy heads of peacekeeping missions.
As for the cases revealed last year of women being submitted to abuse in the United Nations, the Portuguese diplomat said he is “completely committed to zero tolerance of sexual harassment.”
“We are working with governments and civil society to prevent and address these crimes and to support survivors,” Guterres said.