Photo: Adam da Cruz

Media Releases

  1. 1 December 2017

    Statement by UN Women Executive Director: Leaving no one out from health

    Statement by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women for World AIDS Day, 1 December 2017

    Every four minutes, three young women become infected with HIV (UNAIDS Right to Health report, 2017). They are clearly not enjoying their right to health, nor will they, until we are able to reverse the inequalities and discrimination that fuel HIV spread. Those whose health and future are currently least prioritized must become our focus, if we are to achieve the changes we seek.

    Across communities and countries, imbalances in power relations, confining social norms and the prevalence of gender-based violence and discrimination are resulting in large gaps in both prevention of HIV for women and girls and treatment of it. This is especially true for marginalized groups, who often face high levels of stigma and discrimination, such as women with disabilities, sex workers, women who inject drugs and women in prison, with resulting increased difficulty in accessing health care, especially when more than one reason for discrimination applies. So, for example, pregnant women who inject drugs and are living with HIV face even greater difficulties in accessing services to prevent their infants from acquiring HIV infection than other women who are living with HIV (UNAIDS 2014).

    Women experiencing high levels of discrimination are also at high risk of violence, which again compounds the likelihood of infection (UNAIDS 2017). For example, data from sub-Saharan Africa suggest an increased risk of HIV infection among women with disabilities compared with those without disabilities (UNAIDS Disability and HIV, 2017).

    Several significant initiatives are under way that use knowledge of the drivers of risk and are building capacity to implement successful best practices.

    Urgent steps to ending discriminatory laws against those at risk of HIV and creating an empowering and just legal environment have resulted in an unprecedented call to put women and girls at the centre of the health system, with the Joint United Nations Statement on Ending Discrimination in Health Care Settings signed by UN Women and 11 partner agencies.

    The SASA! programme, which originated in Uganda has successfully used understanding of the connection between discrimination, violence and HIV infection to reverse the situation,  through local activism, advocacy and training that led to significantly lower community acceptance and experience of intimate-partner violence, including sexual violence (Abramsky 2014). The UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, managed by UN Women, has supported SASA! implementation in Kenya, Haiti and Tanzania.

    Leaving no woman or girl behind in the HIV response means ensuring their meaningful participation and engagement in designing that response, improving access to services and demanding their right to health. To do that, we foster women’s voices and leadership and support their place at decision-making tables. In 2016, UN Women supported networks of women living with HIV in 31 countries to increase their engagement in the national HIV responses.

    Similarly, we are building the leadership skills of adolescent girls and young women to engage in agenda-setting fora and national level discussions on ending AIDS, using digital technologies. For example, in Malawi, Uganda and Kenya our “Engagement + Empowerment = Equality” programme mobilized over 1,000 young women champions, including 250 girls living with HIV, in just nine months, using online and face-to-face mentoring, providing peer support and social media programmes reaching thousands of other young women. The voice and activism of youth is especially important when we consider that young women make up 74 per cent of new infections in eastern Africa and 91 per cent of the new infections in southern Africa among 15-19 year-olds (UNAIDS 2016).

    This World AIDS Day, UN Women calls for a commitment to prioritize and reach all the women and girls being left behind in the HIV response: every last woman and girl. Leaving no one behind means including everyone, without exception and without discrimination.

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  2. 16 November 2017

    Statement: A life without the threat of violence for everyone: leave no one behind

    Message by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, 25 November 2017

    The initial response to the outpouring of ‘#MeToo’ around the world has been of outrage at the scale of sexual abuse and violence revealed. The millions of people joining the hashtag tide showed us how little they were heard before. They poured through the floodgate, opening up conversations, naming names and bolstering the frailty of individual statements with the robustness of a movement.

    This virtual class action has brought strength to those whose stories would otherwise have not been told. Sexual violence in private almost always ends up as one person’s word against another, if that word is ever spoken. Even sexual violence in public has been impossible to call out when society does not view rape as a male crime but as a woman’s failing, and views that woman as dispensable.

    We are seeing the ugly face of violence brought out into the light: the abuses of power that repress reporting and diminish the facts, and that exclude or crush opposition. These acts of power draw from the same roots, whether they concern the murder of a woman human rights defender standing up against big business interests in the Amazon basin, a young refugee girl forced to have sex for food or supplies, or a small business employee in London forced out of her job for being ‘difficult’, after reporting the sexual misconduct of her supervisor. In each case, and over and over, these acts of abuse have stemmed from a confidence that there will be no significant reprisal, no law invoked, no calling to account.

    But everyone has the right to live their life without the threat of violence. This holds for all people, no matter what their gender, age, race, religion, ethnicity or caste, and irrespective of their income level, sexual orientation, HIV status, citizenship, where they live, or any other characteristic of their identity.

    Violence against women and girls is not inevitable. There are many ways to prevent violence in the first place and to stop cycles of violence repeating.

    As a society, we can support the passing and implementation of laws to protect girls and women from child marriage, FGM, domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, and we can agitate for their impact to be properly monitored and evaluated.

    The provision of essential services for survivors of violence must be comprehensive, multi-sectoral, non-judgmental, of good quality and accessible to everyone, with no exceptions. These services are the frontline of response to those whose lives have just been ruptured; they must have the survivor’s dignity and safety as central concerns.

    Prevention of violence must begin early. The education system and teachers themselves are at the forefront of children and young people learning to carry forward the principles of equality, respect and non-violence for future generations. This takes appropriate curricula and role model behaviour.

    What #MeToo has shown clearly is that everyone has a part to play in changing our society for the better. We must speak out against harassment and violence in our homes, workplaces, in our institutions, social settings and through our media. #MeToo has also shown us that no one is immune. All institutions need to be aware of the potential for violence to occur among their staff. With that knowledge, we must take steps to prevent it, and at the same time be well prepared to respond appropriately.

    In this broad effort to end violence against women and girls, we see men as playing a vital role in bringing change. Challenging sexism, male dominance and male privilege as society’s norm starts with modeling positive masculinities. Parents can instill principles of equality, rights and respect as they raise their sons; and men can call out their peers for the behaviours that are now being understood as the unacceptable tip of the harassment iceberg.

    At the heart of today’s theme of ‘leaving no one behind’, is leaving no one out. This means bringing women and girls as equals into everything that concerns them, and planning solutions to end violence with those who have been previously dismissed, sidelined or excluded.

    As a global community, we can act now to end violence against women and girls, to change institutions and work together to end discrimination, restore human rights and dignity, and leave no one behind.

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  3. 10 October 2017

    UN Women statement: International Day of the Girl Child, 11 October

    “Some people say that it is shameful for girls to go to work or go to school. These are old traditions and conventions.” These are the words of Alan and Israa, two Syrian girls who, through a UN Women-supported training and community centre in Beirut, Lebanon, are learning how to repair mobile phones. This training is helping to break down traditional ideas about what girls can and cannot do, and through giving them relevant skills for their future, it is building resilience and helping to break conventional isolation.

    This year, on the International Day of the Girl Child, we are focused on how to ‘EmPOWER Girls: Before, during and after crises’. Throughout 2017 we have seen growing conflict, instability and inequality, with 128.6 million people this year expected to need humanitarian assistance due to security threats, climate change and poverty. More than three-quarters of those who have become refugees or who are displaced from their homes, are women and children [1]. Among these, women and girls are among the most vulnerable in times of crisis.

    Displaced and vulnerable women and girls face higher risks of sexual and gender-based violence, as well as damage to their livelihoods [2]; girls are 2.5 times more likely than boys to miss school during disasters [3]; and displaced girls are often married off as children in an effort to ensure their security. A 2013 assessment estimated a rise in the percentage of Syrian girl refugees in Jordan being married before age 18 from below 17 per cent before the conflict, to more than 50 per cent afterwards.

    At UN Women, we are working to ensure that girls experiencing crises have positive options that allow them to grow and develop social and economic skills. Along with local women’s organizations, we support women and girl refugees through our Global Flagship Initiative, on Women’s Leadership, Empowerment, Access and Protection in Crisis Response (LEAP) [4], which boosts civic engagement and leadership by advocating for women’s political and social participation at the local, national and international levels. LEAP also establishes Empowerment Hubs where women can network and access critical services and training, and provides job placements, cash-for-work initiatives and training for businesses.

    Programmes like these can turn situations of displacement into opportunities for empowerment for girls and young women, remove them from potentially violent situations, and serve as a path to economic security so that they are not forced to marry older men to provide for their physical and financial wellbeing.

    As Alan and Israa experienced, UN Women is also tapping into the possibilities of mobile technology, developing a Virtual Skills School, so that women and girls who have dropped out of school due to early marriage, childbearing or traditional practices, who are living with a disability, or who are displaced from their homes and in refugee camps, have access to second-chance learning.

    On the International Day of the Girl Child, let us commit to investing in skills training and education for girls and livelihood activities for young women around the world who are facing crises. Far from being passive recipients of assistance, these girls are leaders who will use the skills that they develop today to rebuild their communities, and create a better future for all of us.


    [1] “Protecting Women in in Emergency Situations,” UNFPA.

    [2] “Women and girls in forced and protracted displacement,” GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report, September 5, 2016,


    [4] “Humanitarian Action,” UN Women,

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  4. 21 September 2017

    30 Global Leaders Convene to Share Ground-Breaking Solutions on how to Achieve Gender Equality as Part of UN Women’s HeForShe Movement

    (New York) – 30 global leaders unveiled their ground-breaking solutions for gender equality today as part of UN Women’s HeForShe movement. Addressing critical policy issues, changing the course of business leadership and the futures of our next generation, these proven practices have the potential to see gender equality achieved within our lifetime.

    HeForShe’s IMPACT Champions, comprised of 10 Heads of State, 10 global CEOs and 10 University Presidents, came together to share with the world the key obstacles they have faced on their journey, as well as the innovative proven practices that they can now empower the rest of the world with. H.E. Arthur Peter Mutharika, President of Malawi, shared the story of how his country has ended child marriage once and for all, allowing over 1500 girls to return to education. Bob Moritz, Chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited shared the story of how his organization has gone from 18 per cent female representation in the Global Leadership Team in January 2016 to 47 per cent by December 2016. Paul Boyle, President and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Leicester (U.K.) led a dynamic conversation on how students themselves are generating solutions to address gender-based violence on their campuses.

    “The results announced in today’s IMPACT 10x10x10 Parity Report are inspirational. In 2015, I challenged the Champions to ‘think big’ and commit to creative approaches that tackled the greatest barriers. We know that incremental steps do not bring us the benefits that we so urgently need,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women. “As leaders in their fields the Champions hold the key to breaking norms and making game-changing progress for both women and men. The report shares strategies, roadblocks and successes so others can follow suit.”

    In a true HeForShe moment, newcomers H.E. Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana, Andrew Wilson, CEO of Electronic Arts and Professor Paul Wainaina, Vice-Chancellor of Kenyatta University were warmly welcomed to the IMPACT 10x10x10 family. H.E. Nana Akufo-Addo is committed to improving gender inequalities and engaging the men of Ghana for a more equitable country. With over 300 million players around the world, Electronic Arts will lead on diversifying representation in the gaming industry, creating safe spaces online as well as advancing equal pay in the US and beyond. Home to some of the world’s top scholars, researchers and experts with over 70,000 students, Kenyatta University brings a new global perspective to the IMPACT cohort. Aligning with the existing priorities of the IMPACT Universities, Kenyatta is committed to achieving a gender-balanced leadership, embedding gender equality into the very DNA of their institution and addressing gender-based violence across their campuses.

    Official images, briefing documents, and video clips will be available here.
    Livestream will be available here.
    To learn more, you can review the full report here.
    Photos from the events will be available at:



    WHAT IMPACT Champions Are Saying:

    Head of State IMPACT Champions

    “The HeForShe movement provides an opportunity for the socialization of men and boys to support and promote women’s and girls’ empowerment. Men should commit themselves by signing the HeForShe movement.”

    • H.E. Arthur Peter Mutharika, President of the Republic of Malawi

    “I strongly believe removing the root causes of discrimination and violence against women and girls is a smart strategy to ensure a just and prosperous world.”

    • H.E. Joko Widodo, President of the Republic of Indonesia

    “The formalization of the Gender Equality Expert role is not only a critical step in eliminating gender based violence throughout our communities in Romania, but also ensures that our policies are informed and responsive. Only when we do this, we will start to see gender equality becoming reality.”

    • H.E. Klaus Werner Iohannis, President of Romania

    “We have to change mindsets, not just laws. We are in this together; let’s stand as partners and end gender inequality once and for all.”

    • H.E. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda

    “In my capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the Finnish Defence Forces, I am proud to announce that all our conscripts, who are mostly young men, undergo training on anger management and prevention of violence in close relationships as part of their military service. I call upon everyone to join in efforts to build equal and sustainable societies and achieve full gender equality by 2030. Finland is a close partner of UN Women – we are one of its largest donors – in this endeavour.

    • H.E. Sauli Niinistö, President of Finland

    “I firmly believe that empowering women to maximize their high potential to the full extent will be a driving force that puts Japan, a country currently caught in an impasse, on track for growth and prosperity once again.”

    • H.E. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan

    “My political commitment is based on the firm belief of equal value of all people as well as on the power of politics to change society and create equal rights and opportunities for all. This is why I am a feminist. You cannot separate equal worth from gender equality. We must defeat gender discrimination and structural biases which hold women back from shaping society and even their own lives.”

    • H.E. Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister of Sweden

    “We are deeply hurt by the phenomenon of domestic violence and we will carry out all the actions we can to fight against this scourge As part of this commitment, Uruguay implements a prevention, confrontation, reduction and reparation of violence based on gender national policy. HeForShe Campaign provides us a powerful and creative global platform that drives and supports our efforts to ensure a life free of gender-based violence for women. ”

    • H.E. Tabaré Vázquez, President of Uruguay


    Corporate IMPACT Champions

    “Gender equality is foundational to the culture and values of Electronic Arts, and we must champion it as a force for global change.  With more than 2.5 billion people around the world playing games today, interactive entertainment is uniquely positioned to advance this movement.  Gender equality is a human right, and we are committed to leading the conversation with our employees, our players and our industry.”

    • Andrew Wilson, CEO of Electronic Arts

    “Gender equality is not a zero-sum game—it spurs opportunity and prosperity. Enabling both genders to contribute equally in business and their personal lives benefits all. When it comes to gender parity, leaders of all types have a vital role to play in creating the right tone throughout organizations and communities, inspiring women and men alike in building a culture of equality and eradicating gender-based siloes. Without steadfast commitment on every front and at every level, gender parity will remain elusive, and remember–all of us are or can be leaders!”

    • Bob Moritz, Global Chairman, PwC International Ltd.

    “The vast majority of companies have introduced measures to increase gender diversity at the top, but many are still struggling to achieve significant results. Achieving gender parity is hard work, as we well know from our own experience. Changing outcomes on a scale that will move the needle will require relentless effort.”

    • Dominic Barton, Global Managing Partner, McKinsey & Company

    “Companies have a key role to play as change agents to build a world where gender equality is a reality. It is a question of determination. Leading by example and engaging more men in these challenges will be one of my key priorities.”

    • Jean Pascal Tricoire, CEO, Schneider Electric

    “Barclays will only succeed if we relentlessly focus on building and maintaining a diverse and inclusive environment. An environment that values experience and empowers colleagues to prioritise their professional and personal lives is one that allows us all to succeed together. Dynamic working offers colleagues an opportunity to design their own work patterns. Enabling people to decide when, where and how they work helps increase engagement and productivity.”

    • Jes Staley, CEO, Barclays

    “Gender bias is deeply rooted in our community. Unlearning this bias is our immense challenge, yet this is the key to gender equality. As Koç Group, we focus on creating a new gender paradigm that will assist us achieving gender equality in the workplace and in the society.”

    • Ömer M. Koç, Chairman, Koç Holding

    “We must find ways to challenge the adverse norms and stereotypes holding women and men back, and companies, like Unilever, have an important role to do so. Via our Unstereotype initiative, we are using our expertise and understanding of the drivers of social norms to create a positive transformation, starting with our advertising.”

    • Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever

    “We realized that our research is not about Tupperware – it’s about studying a trend in the workplace, and showing that confidence is universal, translatable and ultimately valuable.”

    • Rick Goings, CEO, Tupperware Brands

    “In a Group like AccorHotels, where about 50% of our employees are women, diversity at every level in the company is not a cause we stand for: it is a vital issue and a key to sustainable performance. We are all – men and women alike – free to enjoy fulfilling professional careers.”

    • Sébastien Bazin, Chairman and CEO, AccorHotels

    “Our Instant Network classrooms give boys and girls the opportunity to learn on tablets and have access via our technology to knowledge and subjects at the same level as every other young person in the world. Education and technology can really improve their chances of having a better life, and maybe – as several told us – go back to their countries and help re-establish peaceful societies.”

    • Vittorio Colao, CEO, Vodafone


    University IMPACT Champions

    “Through the work of our Gender Equity Office, we have seen how it is possible to tackle the structural problem of gendered privilege that manifests on our campus in a myriad of ways, including gender based harm. By taking the steps to hear and support victims, challenge perpetrators and amplify the marginalized voices within our university community, we are learning that it is possible to chip away at deeply rooted cultures of privilege.”

    • Adam Habib, Principal & Vice-Chancellor, University of the Witwatersrand

    “Real, sustainable change does not result from the actions of a single person or vision. While the HeForShe commitments focus on opening doors to women and girls in science, technology, math and engineering (STEM), disciplines, meaningful change requires commitment across our entire campus, with students, faculty, staff and alumni coming together to share their stories, identify opportunities, envision solutions and put plans into action.”

    • Feridun Hamdullahpur, President and Vice Chancellor, University of Waterloo

    “To reach effective gender equality is not an objective: it is our duty and our responsibility.

    • Frédéric Mion, President, Sciences Po

    “Our survey findings underscore an urgent and critical need to continue to address sexual assault and misconduct and provide us the information we need to better target and focus our work. Some of the action we take will be immediate, beginning in the coming days and weeks. Some action will require ongoing, sustained effort. All actions that we take will require the active engagement of our entire community.”

    • John DeGioia, President, Georgetown University

    “For me, the university is a privileged place, where education is a powerful instrument to develop long-term transformative changes of behaviors to address social issues such as violence against women and all types of discriminations.”

    • Marco Zago, President, University of São Paulo

    “A key component of our strategic plan is to develop talent in our people. We think the investments we make in developing our female staff will result in a transformation in the make-up of our university leaders into the next decade.”

    • Paul Boyle, President & Vice Chancellor University of Leicester

    “I have been shocked by the male predominance in higher education in Hong Kong, and even more concerned by the passive acceptance by many parties. I welcome the challenge of addressing this issue during my Presidency.”

    • Peter Mathieson, President & Vice-Chancellor, The University of Hong Kong

    “As a University President, I know how vital achieving equality is to our students’ success and well-being but even more than that, my commitment to gender equality is personal.”

    • Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D., President, Stony Brook University

    “I am committed to striving for more women in leadership positions. This commitment remains the most challenging because of the stereotypical belief among some people that women do not make good leaders in traditional Japanese culture. But we continue to provide our female colleagues with better opportunities to build up expertise so they can take on more leadership roles in the near future.

    • Seiichi Matsuo, President, Nagoya University


    ABOUT HeForShe

    Created by UN Women, the HeForShe solidarity movement for gender equality provides a systematic approach and targeted platform on which men and boys can engage and become change agents towards the achievement of gender equality. HeForShe invites men and boys to build on the work of the women’s movement as equal partners, crafting and implementing a shared vision of gender equality that will benefit all of humanity. For more information, visit


    IMPACT 10x10x10 engages key decision makers at governments, corporations and universities around the world to drive change from the top. IMPACT Champions make gender equality an institutional priority, committing to real change within and beyond each of their organizations. Each IMPACT Champion implements the HeForShe IMPACT framework and develops three bold, game-changing commitments to advance and ultimately achieve gender equality for all. Measurement and transparency will be at the heart of these commitments, so successful initiatives can serve as models for the political, corporate and academic world. For more information, visit

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