Closing remarks by Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico

We’re done talking: the blueprints launched today start work right now

Date: Wednesday, March 31, 2021

[As delivered]

Excellencies, distinguished guests, friends, Generation Equality fearless feminists of the world, do you want change? When do you want it?

This Forum is deliberately breaking up the ‘old normal’. I want to start by thanking those of us who are joining us in this ‘new normal’. In this Forum, we were joined by at least 10,000 women who registered formally or who followed us on other channels, including YouTube. Women and girls of all ages, racial identities and backgrounds from different regions of the world, brought their leadership and their realities to this virtual stage. This includes the artists who delighted us with music, with painting, with murals – we thank them all. The world has listened to you.

We know that our governments and all those who make decisions are ready to step up for gender equality on your terms, to take the leadership in making commitments and help to drive the commitments forward. Those who control power, resources and influence must be the champions of Generation Equality. We want them to be our partners in the implementation of the catalytic actions that we have plotted together, along with those who are in the Action Coalitions, in the Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action Compact, as well in implementing the demands made by youth and adolescent girls.

Allow me to express our deepest gratitude to the governments of Mexico and France for co-hosting the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico and in Paris. We want to thank Mexico for rising up, against all odds and against all the obstacles that came with the pandemic, to make this extraordinary global moment of feminist solidarity. I want to also thank the UN Women colleagues and team in Mexico, the UN System in Mexico and our Resident Coordinator who is here with us, the civil society who is here in Mexico, the youth, the private sector and everyone in Mexico who welcomed us. I want to thank the indigenous women of Mexico who blessed us and welcomed us. I thank all those who have worked night and day and behind the scenes, to share ideas, to field panels, channel discussions and participate in the chatrooms; who moderated the panels; and who connected us and made sure that even when we were disconnected, we were reconnected.

Last week the Commission on the Status of Women in New York agreed on the critical importance of building and sustaining the leadership of women. These were our governments agreeing to make sure that women can participate fully and adequately. For that we thank our governments and we promise them that we will work for the implementation of the commitment that they made – to support women’s 50/50 representation in all decision-making positions in the public sector and in other sectors – in Generation Equality.

Generation Equality is about action and accelerating the Beijing Platform for Action, the Sustainable Development Goals and about building back better in a gender-responsive manner so that the pandemic legacy is not a further heavy millstone around women’s and girls’ necks. So, again I ask you: what do you want? (Action). When do you want it? (Now).

We are done talking. Yes, we are full of hope but, more importantly, we are full of ambition. We know hope is important, but we also know that hope is not a strategy. So we are ambitious in carrying out action. We believe in allyship and we believe that there should be no bystanders where there are injustices. We believe in inclusion and that is why we are now an intergenerational force. We are diverse and we are focused on action. We are committed in this alliance to make sure that the blueprints launched today start work right now.

So, what do these blueprints look like? These are iconic, they are game-changing, they are actions that recognize today’s realities. Let me give you a taste of what some of these actions are. We have committed to actions that will make sure 550 million more women and girls worldwide are protected by law and policy against violence in all its forms – that is in addition to the women who are already protected. But because we know that laws alone will not do the work, we will also be active in changing the norms and in ensuring implementation. Changes in discriminatory laws will also bring rights to 260 million women and girls to control decisions about their bodies and their family planning.

We will act for education and make sure that we drive decisions that will enhance the future for girls. Education means finishing the end of high school and properly equipping girls to be ready for life after school. We will act to massively increase access for women and girls to the Internet and to mobile phones. This is an essential freedom – of information and of access – for girls in schools, girls at home or women entrepreneurs.

We recognize our green, tech-driven future, and we want digital power in the hands of women and girls. We therefore are committing to doubling the women and girls working in technology and innovation, and investing in gender-responsive production and climate solutions.

We will work for societies that take account of the need for care, creating 80 million new decent jobs in the sector. You heard today Mexico introducing the initiatives in the care economy.

We also made the commitment to fight for equal pay in order to make sure that women enjoy the freedom that comes with financial independence.

We recognize the need for resources for women’s and youth-led groups, we therefore think it is important to double the annual growth rate of the funding for these feminist organizations.

Each of these emerging blueprints will create transformative change over the coming five years. They will be backed by investment and we will make sure that these investments are directed so as to reach these ambitious commitments. We have done the rigorous research, made the policy decisions, counted the cost, and we must now begin the anticipated change.

This morning we listened to the commitments that were made and we thank those early Commitment Makers. We anticipate many more Commitment Makers as we forge ahead to Paris. This work is urgent.

The realization of women’s rights and the fact that these are rights for women everywhere and anywhere is what unites us; it is what we are committed to accelerate. We will set the precedent for making sure that our changes and the changes of those who collaborate with us are groundbreaking and enhance the quality of life for women.

We bring here women in their diversity; those who were not adequately represented in Beijing. We make sure that race is addressed in Generation Equality in a manner that was not possible in Beijing. We make sure that women in all their diversity are included in Generation Equality. We have all heard the powerful testimonies from women who are peacebuilders, defenders of rights, journalists, political leaders, indigenous and Black activists, leaders from the private sector, young women sportspersons and artists. We have cities that have also become part of Generation Equality. They too will add value in this process.

We heard feminist conversations, and the dialogues that were intergenerational, a number of healing and resilient encounters and the many special sessions, including a session that focused on tracing what happened since we came from Beijing. We thank the women who were in Beijing who participated to give us the grounding. This was the time to firmly put the baton in the hands of women – and the girls – who already had the baton in their hands. These anniversaries, such as the 25-year celebration of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, create moments for us to institutionalize our decisions, and to make sure that in a time and a place we made changes. Mexico is such a time and a place in the history of gender equality.

So, the call to action is in the name of women past, present and future, and we call upon all of you as governments, as corporations, as organizations, as activists to decide what your bold and game-changing commitment is going to be. What will you do to make a significant difference? What partnerships can you forge and bring into Generation Equality? What policy will you change? What money will you bring to the table? What will you create to make sure that you are contributing towards a gender equal world in order to make sure that the future is brighter for all women and girls?

We want to emulate Mexico in committing our policy and budget as we create the change; and to emulate the Government of Canada, the Ford Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Women Moving Millions. This is our moment. This is the moment for Generation Equality. It started in Mexico 45 years ago, it went to Beijing, it’s back in Mexico, it’s going to Paris and it’s taking you along. We hope that you are convinced that you have a role in this inclusive journey.

Thank you.