Thank you Mr President,
Multiple and interconnected barriers prevent women and girls from reaching their full potential. Where women and girls are unable to fulfill their potential, entire countries suffer. We know that when we fight discrimination and advance gender equality, everyone benefits.
The UK is committed to protecting and promoting the rights and freedoms of women and girls at home and abroad so they can have their voice, choice and control over all aspects of their lives. .
Women’s rights are human rights, as enshrined in many conventions supported by the UK. Our ambition remains higher than ever and we cannot be complacent when reviewing our progress.
This is why we are committed to placing women and girls at the heart of our foreign and development policy, by focusing action on 3 areas: Girls’ education; empower women and girls; and Ending the Violence.
We know that achieving gender equality is fundamental to building democracies and accelerating progress in securing freedoms, prosperity and trade, as well as strengthening global security and resilience. Women’s knowledge and leadership strengthens decision-making, leading to better, more sustainable and fairer policies that benefit entire communities.
Together, for many years, we have made real, hard-earned progress on this program. There are more girls in school; fewer girls forced into early marriage; more women in high political office and management positions in the private sector; and there have been encouraging legal reforms in many countries to tackle inequality.
However, progress has stalled. At the current rate, it will take 135 years to close the gender gap in the world. Women and girls are and continue to be disproportionately affected by crises, be it the COVID pandemic, conflict or climate change.
Take COVID as an example. Globally, we have seen women shoulder the burden of unpaid care and be the hardest hit economically, deepening the poverty of women and girls. There has been a global increase in gender-based violence, reduced access to sexual and reproductive health and rights; and the increase in the number of child marriages and teenage pregnancies. An estimated 20 million girls will never return to school due to COVID.
The past few months have also shown the profound resilience of the human spirit and of free societies, with women and girls on the front lines and affected by multiple brutal conflicts, most recently due to the illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
Growing authoritarianism undermines democratic values, human rights and effective institutions and threatens these hard-won gains. Systematic attempts by multiple actors to roll back and reverse the rights of women and girls have gained momentum at international and community levels.
In Afghanistan, twenty years of progress on women’s rights have been reversed. Afghan girls have been largely banned from secondary school for over a year, the only country in the world where this is the case.
In Iran, the death of Mahsa Amini is a shocking reminder of the repression women face. No one should face violence because of what they wear, how they practice their beliefs, or any expression of their basic rights.
The UK remains firm in its commitment to protect and promote the rights of women and girls. In particular, we must respect the bodily autonomy of women and girls throughout their lives by supporting them to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights, preventing all forms of gender-based violence and eliminating harmful practices, including mutilation female genitalia and child, early and forced marriage. .
The UK has long led the charge against gender-based violence, including conflict-related sexual violence. In November, the UK will host a major international conference to promote prevention, justice and support for survivors, and strengthen the global response.
We are ready to do things differently, think differently and work differently to achieve true gender equality. We must act across multiple sectors and disciplines simultaneously and address the many forms of disadvantage women and girls face, in terms of age, race, disability, economic status, gender identity, religion /beliefs and location.
And we can’t do it alone. We will continue to work with our partners, including women’s rights organizations who are on the front lines of this work, to deliver for women and girls around the world.
I thank you.