The richness, welfare and prosperity of countries depend on the full integration of women in the development process, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said today, commemorating International Women’s Day at a ceremony in Nairobi as part of his visit to Kenya.
Speaking at an event alongside the First Lady of Kenya, Mr. Guterres told the hundreds of assembled women leaders at the Government’s official celebration of the International Day, that every effort had to be made to finally defeat male-dominated culture if we are to be able to achieve gender equality.
“The truth is that north and south, east and west […] everywhere, we still have a male-dominated culture,” he said, recalling that he had pushed hard for women’s empowerment when he was the Prime Minister of Portugal and, as the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, he had met women who suffered the worst possible abuse.
Against this background, and the enduring male-dominated culture and violation of women’s human rights, “we need to have […] policies of gender equality [and] policies of protection of women in vulnerable situations, but the key […] is our strong commitment to women and girls’ empowerment in our societies,” he stated.
Noting the three pillars of the UN – human rights, peace and security and development – he also underlined that “it is better to prevent conflict when we have women fully empowered in societies and it’s better to solve conflicts when fully participate in conflict resolution.”
Mr. Guterres also had the opportunity to visit a number of field projects in the Mathare slums, including a women’s empowerment program run by UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) as part of its slum upgrading initiative and a UN WOMEN project designed to encourage the political participation of women. He was able to listen to a group of women who had decided to run for office, often against great odds.