Statement by Baroness Northover, UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for International Development, at the 59th Session on the UN Commission on the Status of Women
Twenty years ago some 30,000 activists gathered in Beijing for a historic Women’s Conference. Representatives from 189 governments agreed powerful commitments for advancing girls’ and women’s rights. These commitments formed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
The United Kingdom welcomes the opportunity to engage with UN Women and international partners to discuss progress for girls and women since Beijing, and more importantly to address persisting barriers to gender equality.
The United Kingdom believes that all girls and women have the right to live free from discrimination and violence and fulfil their potential.
Women’s greater economic independence and participation are crucial to gender equality and to global development. The United Kingdom has prioritised this at home and overseas.
In the UK, there are more women in work than ever before – including in senior decision-making roles and as heads of business. We are closing the gender pay gap and seeking to ensure more girls pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
We’re introducing new legislation to help women into work – including flexible working, shared parental leave and tax-free childcare.
Overseas we have provided access to financial services to over 26 million women and supported more than five million girls to attend primary and lower secondary school.
Violence against girls and women in all its forms is an abhorrent crime and must be eradicated. In the UK, we have introduced domestic violence protection orders and measures to allow women to check to see if their partners have a criminal record. We have criminalised forced marriage and female genital mutilation and we’re seeking to clamp down on online sexism and abuse.
Internationally, we have committed £35 million to tackle Female Genital Mutilation in 17 countries and £36 million to tackle Child, Early and Forced Marriage in 12 countries.
In 2014 we hosted two global events to accelerate action on Child, Early and Forced Marriage, Female Genital Mutilation and Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict. We want to end Child, Early and Forced Marriage and FGM everywhere within a generation. We are campaigning to ensure that addressing the causes of, and impunity for, sexual violence in conflict are a central element of all discussions on peace and security.
We are also witnessing an increase in women’s leadership in the UK and around the world –in business, science, politics, health, education and many other areas. And we hugely welcome this.
This year there is a unique and great opportunity to enhance gender equality and girls’ and women’s empowerment.
We must ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals demonstrate a strong and explicit commitment to achieve gender equality and the empowerment and realisation of the human rights of girls and women. This requires a standalone gender goal and the integration of transformative targets and indicators throughout all the goals. We need to agree how these goals and targets will be implemented. And we must secure effective finances for that.
We welcome the 15th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 and recognise the role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts.
The UK thanks UN Women and the CSW Bureau for the opportunity to recommit to the Beijing Platform for Action. Gender equality is everyone’s business and we all have a role to play. We look forward to continuing to work together to fulfil the promises made in 1995 to girls and women everywhere.