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UK Commission on the Status of Women - National Statement

UK Government commitment to the UN on women's economic empowerment and gender equality

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The head of the UK delegation to the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women gave the following statement on Thursday, 16 March 2017:

The United Kingdom Government is firmly committed to achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

We are here today to demonstrate that 50% of the world’s population refuses to be shut out and that we will shout out for our right to be equal.

But change will only happen when we all work together, when all our voices are heard, and when no woman or girl is left behind.

That is why in the UK we are proud of our role on the High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment. We are grateful for the work of the current and the previous UN Secretary General in setting up and supporting its work and will be working to take forward the recommendations.

The UK continues to advance gender equality both domestically and internationally:

  • We now have our 2nd female Prime Minister and more women in Parliament than ever before in British history;
  • We now have the highest number of women working and on the boards of our largest UK-listed companies;
  • We now require larger employers to publish their gender pay and bonus gaps; and
  • We are tackling violence against women and girls, in the UK and overseas.

Many of our efforts are focused on working with other countries to stamp out inequalities:

  • Since 2011 UK Aid has supported over 36 million women to get access to financial services and helped 3 million women to improve their land and property rights;
  • We are a global leader in tackling violence against women and girls in all its forms, from intimate partner violence to female genital mutilation and to child, early and forced Marriage. We are also taking action to advance the Women, Peace and Security agenda, promoting the involvement of women in peace negotiations, providing relevant training to foreign militaries and putting gender equality at the heart of our humanitarian action;
  • We are committed to helping 11 million children around the world, including 6.5 million girls, to gain a decent education between 2015 and 2020;
  • The UK will remain a leader on family planning, women’s rights and sexual and reproductive health. Women should have the right to choose whether and when they have children, and how many.

Much of the violence and inequality we see around us today is the result of norms and beliefs that, for centuries, have held women back, deprived them of the equal enjoyment of their rights, and undermined their ambitions and the role they can play in society.

But now we know that where women fully participate, economies grow, countries are stable and people prosper. Advancing gender equality can add $12tn to the global economy . So, equality as an aim is not just the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do as well. And it benefits all of us, women and men, boys and girls.

We are therefore proud of the work we’re doing to ensure the next generation do not have to face the same problem:

  • By getting more girls to study science, technology and the subjects they are interested in, rather than those they are expected to study because of outdated gender stereotypes;
  • By making sure that schools foster respect and healthy relationships and tackle bullying - including homophobic and transphobic bullying; and
  • By working internationally, to break down the barriers that prevent so many girls from attending school and from completing their education.

I am also pleased today to announce that the UK is extending the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women to Bermuda and St Helena.

In the UK we strongly acknowledge the role of women working in civil society and women’s rights organisations And I also applaud business leaders who are championing women’s economic empowerment at the top of their agenda.

Chair, let’s not miss this chance at CSW 61 to make the change we want and need to see.

Published 17 March 2017