Opening remarks by Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women, Sima Bahous, for the meeting of the UN General Assembly Platform of Women Leaders: “Transformative Solutions by Women Leaders to Today’s Interlinked Challenges” 

Speech: Women leaders—decisive, effective and inclusive

[As delivered.]

On behalf of UN Women, it is my honour and great pleasure today to join their Excellencies President Kőrösi of the 77th Session of the General Assembly, and President Shahid of the 76th Session of the General Assembly, in welcoming this exemplary group of leaders to the first meeting of the United Nation General Assembly Platform of Women Leaders.

Thank you President Kőrösi for putting a spotlight on the power of women’s leadership at the opening of today’s General Assembly. And thank you, President Shahid, for inspiring the launch of this platform. It is also an honour to share this platform with our moderator, Helen Clark, also a former woman Head of Government—and an inspiring leader. I am also grateful for the cooperation of the Council of Women World Leaders, our partners in launching this UN General Assembly Platform of Women Leaders.

The initiative behind this Platform is fueled by a shared commitment to placing gender equality at the forefront of the multilateral arena, not only as a matter of human rights, but also because it is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  

Never has the opportunity to gather so many powerful women world leaders been so timely and so critical. But we all know that when it comes to women in political decision-making, equality is still far off. Women represent only 1 in 4 members of parliament worldwide and are just 34 per cent of those elected to local governments. And higher up the echelons of power, women are fewer in numbers. They are less than 10 per cent of Heads of State and Government. And more than 100 countries have never had a woman executive. This is why we see so few women in power at this venue—the High-Level Week of the UN General Assembly.

In 2020, only 4 per cent of speakers during the General Assembly were women, which Fortune magazine dubbed “the ultimate man-el.” As the Deputy Secretary-General recalled, with this pace, gender parity for the Heads of State and Government will not be reached for another 130 years. We cannot wait that long.  If we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we must redouble our efforts for gender equality. We must increase women’s leadership, and we must continue to push for spaces that amplify the voices of women. We know that gender equal societies are more peaceful and more prosperous.

Conflict, the climate crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic threaten our planet and all its people more than ever. Today, we have the roadmap. We know that balanced leadership is the key to unlock our common challenges. What we need now is increased political will and the full range of women’s life experiences and leadership talents.

UN Women remains your unwavering partner as you take these challenges head-on as women leaders often do: decisively, effectively, and inclusively.

I thank you.