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UN Women at the UN General Assembly

By Ellie Duncan

As leaders from across the globe met at the 72nd UN General Assembly in September, UN Women brought women’s priorities to the fore and called for tangible actions to achieve gender equality.

The theme at this year’s meeting at the UN headquarters was “Focusing on people: striving for peace and a decent life for all on a sustainable planet”.

The General Debate in New York drew attention to a range of urgent issues, including global migration, human trafficking and sustainable development. 

©UN Women/Ryan Brown

Several UN Women-hosted events took a more in-depth look at the so-called gaps that are deterring the progress of women around the world, addressing key issues such as equal pay, ending violence against women and girls, engaging men and boys as equality champions, and the role of sport in women’s empowerment.

Laura Haynes, Chair of UN Women NC UK, attended several events and said: “It was great to see leadership representation from the UK, including our HeForShe champions and High-Level Panel members, who count CEO's, government ministers, academic leaders and even police chiefs among their numbers.”

“Economic empowerment and the end of gender-based violence remain our priorities, and there was much talk about the importance of technology and finance as levers of change,” she added.

One event convened 30 global leaders as part of UN Women’s HeForShe movement, to discuss their experiences and proven practices on how to achieve gender equality – marking the launch of the HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10 Parity Report.

In the report, HeForShe’s IMPACT Champions, which comprise 10 heads of state, 10 global CEOs and 10 university presidents, shared tangible solutions they believe will help gender equality to be achieved in our lifetime.

©UN Women/Ryan Brown

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, challenged the Champions in 2015 to “commit to creative approaches that tackled the greatest barriers”.

Speaking at the event, she said: “As leaders in their fields the Champions hold the key to breaking norms and making game changing progress for both women and men.”

She added: “The report shares strategies, roadblocks and successes so others can follow suit.”

Bob Moritz, global chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Ltd and one of the corporate IMPACT Champions, explained how his organisation had grown female representation in its global leadership team from 18 per cent in January 2016 to 47 per cent by December that year.

He called gender equality a “zero sum game”.

“Enabling both genders to contribute equally in business and their personal lives benefits all. When it comes to gender parity, leaders of all types have a vital role to play in creating the right tone throughout organisations and communities, inspiring women and men alike in building a culture of equality and eradicating gender-based silos,” Mr Moritz explained.

Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever and one of the movement’s corporate IMPACT Champions, urged companies to “find ways to challenge the adverse norms and stereotypes holding women and men back”.

Paul Boyle, president and vice chancellor at the University of Leicester, led a conversation about solutions being used to address cases of gender-based violence on campuses, an issue which has garnered headlines in the UK recently.

He revealed: “A key component of our strategic plan is to develop talent in our people. We think the investments we make in developing our female staff will result in a transformation in the make-up of our university leaders into the next decade.”