French President argues at UN for gender equality

Seventieth United Nations General Assembly/meeting on gender equality – Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic (excerpts)

New York, 27 September 2015

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I would first of all like to welcome the initiative taken by President Xi Jinping and the Secretary-General to organize this summit. Twenty years ago, a conference in Beijing sparked renewed enthusiasm around the world. Considerable progress has been made and you’ve provided numerous examples of this progress here. And yet 20 years later, 65 million girls still do not attend school, 80% of the victims of human trafficking are women and one out of every three women around the world is a victim of physical or sexual violence. This is the reality that weighs heavily upon us and which justifies this new initiative.

What do we need to do? What goals do we need to set ourselves? The first goal involves promoting the status of women because this presents an opportunity for development. Promoting the status of women is included in the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. The aim is to enable all girls around the world to freely attend school, to have access to work, to be able to become entrepreneurs and therefore to be self-sufficient and live independent lives. Having more trained, economically active women who are capable of succeeding represents an opportunity for global development.

The second goal is to promote the status of women in support of peace. Fifteen years ago, the Security Council adopted a resolution, UNSCR 1325, which recognized the disproportionate impact of armed conflict on women. Unfortunately, the last few months have been a terrible illustration of this. In Syria, women suffer the worst atrocities committed by the regime and Daesh [ISIL]: rape, forced marriage and prostitution are an everyday reality in the regions notably controlled by Daesh. In West Africa, Boko Haram kidnaps girls and uses sexual violence as a weapon of war, and even in the refugee camps we see that women and children are especially vulnerable. We must therefore mobilize our efforts and that’s what we are going to do during this General Assembly, in order to strengthen the capacity of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to find a solution to what’s happening in Syria and help the countries of West Africa to combat terrorism, because stopping war means putting an end to the suffering of women.

Promoting the status of women also means acting on behalf of the planet. You know that Paris will be hosting the Climate Conference, and we have already observed that climate injustices further strengthen inequality and create displacement, exile, refugees. We have also seen that it is women who can be the most capable of working to find solutions to the fight against climate change and for the protection of the environment. That is why, in the funding we disburse at the Paris Conference, I will ask that women’s projects be considered on a priority basis.

The final goal is to promote the status of women because it also means promoting the dignity of men and women. I therefore call for the universal ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. More than 200 million women today are deprived of access to contraception. A very large number are also victims of genital mutilation. I am not saying this to interfere in cultural or religious issues. I am saying it because allowing women to freely choose the number of their children is a fundamental right.

But if we want these goals to truly become watchwords for the international community, if we want them to be achieved, there is a way to do it: by giving many more women access to positions of responsibility in the countries that comprise the international community, ensuring parity at every level of the government and the political system. To offer an example: in France, the government I appointed has more women than men.

Thank you.

Published on 29/09/2015

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