UN Women turns 10, placing women’s rights, priorities and voices centre-stage

Statement by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women

UN Women is 10 years old today. On 2 July 2010, the General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution to merge four parts of the United Nations system into the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women – known as UN Women.

A decade on, as we celebrate this anniversary in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the human rights of women and girls have more prominence, universality and more urgency than ever before. Our founding allies – Member States, civil society and the women’s movements – are now joined by partnerships and relationships throughout society, across age groups, across the world. 

Since 2010, UN Women’s staff, present in some 90 countries, have delivered programmes that have almost quadrupled in size, and that bring change to billions of those most in need.

Whether it’s girls learning coding, women farmers using new climate-resilient seed stock, small enterprise owners accessing large scale value chains, women candidates being trained to run successfully for office, discriminatory laws being abolished, women negotiators bringing essential constructive compromise to peace tables, or provision of psychosocial care for women survivors of violence; millions of women have acquired new skills, been supported through adversity, and gained strength and courage through learning their human rights. Our work to support reform in discriminatory laws in 2019 alone has affected the lives of more than 1 billion women.

Together, we have worked to place women’s rights, priorities and voices on critical global agendas, from the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio, to reflecting migrant women’s struggles in the Global Compact for Migration, to getting women front and centre in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in which Goal 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls is a standalone goal and underpins all 17 Goals. The annual UN Commission on the Status of Women, which shapes global norms and standards, has brought to the fore critical issues like ending violence against women. Now 155 countries have put in place laws that criminalize domestic violence that affects one in three women in their lifetimes.

 We thank all those who have made this journey with us; all those who went before in the women’s movements on whose shoulders we stand, and who were relentless in calling for gender equality to be given its rightful place and for UN Women to be created. We thank all those who support us with resources of all kinds, who work with us, walk with us, talk and tweet with us.

At the tipping point of this decade, and as we look ahead to Generation Equality and a future of multiple challenges, we are confident that we do not do this alone. We know that to change the world will take the world.