António Guterres has cautioned that ‘gender equality is growing more distant’ and called for ‘collective action’ to bridge divide
Global progress on women’s rights is “vanishing before our eyes”, the secretary general of the UN, António Guterres, has warned, saying the increasingly distant goal of gender equality will take another three centuries to achieve.
“Gender equality is growing more distant. On the current track, UN Women puts it 300 years away,” Guterres said in a general assembly speech ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March, as he launched two weeks of discussions led by the Commission on the Status of Women.
“Women’s rights are being abused, threatened and violated around the world,” he added, as he ticked off a litany of crises: maternal mortality, girls ousted from school, caregivers denied work and children forced into early marriage.
“Progress won over decades is vanishing before our eyes,” Guterres said.
He highlighted the particularly dire conditions in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, where “women and girls have been erased from public life”.
Guterres did not name other specific countries, but he stressed that “in many places, women’s sexual and reproductive rights are being rolled back [and] in some countries girls going to school risk kidnapping and assault”.
Also left unmentioned was Iran, which was expelled late last year from the Commission on the Status of Women due to the country’s repression of a female-led revolt since last September.
The Islamic Republic was ousted from the commission on 14 December by a US-led vote of the UN economic and social council.
“Centuries of patriarchy, discrimination and harmful stereotypes have created a huge gender gap in science and technology,” Guterres said, citing as an example how women represent only 3% of Nobel prize winners in those sectors.
He called for “collective action” worldwide by governments, civil society and the private sector to provide gender-responsive education, improve skills training and invest more in “bridging the digital gender divide”.
“The patriarchy is fighting back. But so are we,” Guterres added.
“The United Nations stands with women and girls everywhere.”