Statement on the occasion of International Women’s Day by Moez Doraid, Regional Director a.i. for the Arab States

Date: Sunday, March 8, 2020

“Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”

Each year on 8 March the world celebrates International Women’s Day. This is an opportunity to take stock of the progress we have made to uphold the fundamental rights of women and girls in an evolving global, regional and national context. This year the celebration is particularly significant, as the international community celebrates several important milestones, including the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the ground-breaking Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the progressive global roadmap for the empowerment of women and girls. To highlight the achievements made to date, and to draw attention to the lingering gaps that require action, UN Women is partnering with civil society in a global Generation Equality campaign. With the support of Member States, civil society networks and UN Women aim through this campaign to accelerate progress towards implementation of the Beijing Platform and the Sustainable Development Goals of Agenda 2030, particularly SDG 5.

Youth are at the centre of these efforts. Those who have grown up in the era of the Beijing Platform are joining the global debate and contributing their energy and new solutions to address the lingering gaps in equality. In the Arab States region, where young people between the ages of 15 and 29 represent more than 30 per cent of the population, amounting to more than 100 million people, it is critical that the voices of the youth are heard. In August last year, UN Women convened a meeting of youth activists to identify their priorities for the achievement of the Beijing Platform in our region. The outcome document was submitted to the regional level review process to inform the recommendations for our region and beyond.

The review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action shows progress across the world since 1995. In the Arab States more girls are going to, and staying in, school than ever before. Women outnumber men in universities and account for almost a third of all students pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in Arab universities. We see more women are in leadership positions and many countries are taking steps to remove discriminatory laws.

But in too many areas we are not progressing fast enough, or are even experiencing pushback. In the Arab States, the remarkable gains in education have made little headway in increasing women’s economic participation. Women’s labour force participation rate is the lowest among the regions of the world and the Middle East and North Africa ranks last in terms of the Global Gender Gap Index. The World Economic Forum projects it will take the region 140 years to overcome the gender gap.

Progress in ending violence against women has also been halting. 37% of Arab women have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime. Girls today are still at risk of violence online and in the classroom, home and community. Women and girls are disproportionately bearing the brunt of human rights abuses in crisis contexts in both Yemen and Syria.

To realize the promise of Generation Equality to effect real change for women’s rights, we need to end all forms of discrimination against women and girls; eliminate violence against women and girls and harmful practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation; recognize and value unpaid work; ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership; ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health rights; ensure women’s equal access to economic resources; enhance the use of enabling technology; and adopt and strengthen legislative frameworks for the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment at the national and regional levels.

I am Generation Equality, and so are you. Let us realize women’s rights together!