As International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world, the clock is turning back on women’s rights. We all pay the price, writes UN Secretary General António Guterres in an op-ed.
dThe successive crises of recent years have made it clear that female leadership is more crucial than ever.
Women (doctors, nurses, health and social workers) have fought like heroes during the COVID-19 pandemic. But at the same time, it was women and girls who were the first to leave their jobs or school, take on more unpaid care work and face a meteoric rise in domestic violence, cyber abuse and child marriage.
The pandemic has revealed a heartbreaking and traditional truth: patriarchy is entrenched. We still live in a male dominated world with a male dominated culture.
Therefore, through thick and thin, women are more likely to end up in poverty. His health care is being sacrificed and his education and other opportunities curtailed.
With every step we take, we can be inspired by women and girls committed to progress.
And in countries affected by conflict, from Ethiopia to Afghanistan to Ukraine, women and girls are the most vulnerable, but they also have the strongest voices for peace.
Looking ahead, a sustainable and equitable recovery for all is only possible if it is a feminist recovery, a recovery that focuses on the advancement of girls and women.
We need economic progress through targeted investments in education, employment, training and decent work for women. Women should be the first to qualify for the 400 million jobs we need to create by 2030.
We need social progress by investing in social protection systems and in the care economy. These investments generate enormous benefits: they create green and sustainable jobs and support people in society who need help, such as children, the elderly and the sick.
We need financial progress to reform a global financial system that is morally bankrupt so that all countries can invest in women-centered economic recovery. That includes debt relief and fairer tax systems that channel some of the world’s great wealth to those who need it most.
We need urgent transformative climate action to reverse the reckless rise in emissions and address the gender inequalities that have left women and girls disproportionately vulnerable. Developed countries urgently need to meet their financial and technical support commitments for a just transition from fossil fuels. The successful and stable economies of the future will be green, gender inclusive and sustainable.
To break with the centuries-old patriarchy, power must be distributed equally in all institutions and at all levels.
We need more women in government and corporate leadership positions, such as finance ministers and CEOs, who have green and socially progressive policies that benefit all their people.
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We know, for example, that more women in parliaments means stronger climate commitments and more investment in health and education.
We need political progress through targeted measures and bold quotas that ensure women are equally represented and in charge at all levels of political decision-making.
Inequality between men and women is essentially a question of power. To break with the centuries-old patriarchy, power must be distributed equally in all institutions and at all levels.
At the United Nations, for the first time in the organization’s history, we have achieved gender equality in senior management at headquarters and around the world. This has greatly enhanced our ability to better reflect and represent the communities we serve.
With every step we take, we can be inspired by women and girls fighting for progress in every area and corner of our world.
Young climate activists are leading global efforts to pressure governments to honor their commitments.
Women’s rights activists boldly demand equality and justice, and as peacemakers, peacemakers, and humanitarian aid workers, they build more peaceful societies in some troubled areas of the world and far beyond.
In societies where women’s rights movements are alive, democracies are stronger. When the world invests in more opportunities for women and girls, all of humanity wins.
From the point of view of justice, equality, morality and common sense, we need to advance the clock on women’s rights. We need a sustainable feminist recovery built around and led by women and girls.
António Guterres is Secretary General of the United Nations.