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This event was broadcast live from the 68th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women


Gender equality for all people is a matter of fairness and justice and is also essential for development. Growing evidence shows how removing gender barriers unlocks economic productivity, reduces poverty, deepens social cohesion, and enhances well-being and prosperity for current and future generations. Women’s participation and leadership improves the management of natural resources, strengthens resilience, and makes economies more competitive. 

The forthcoming World Bank Group Gender Strategy 2024-2030: Accelerate Gender Equality to End Poverty on a Livable Planet charts a path forward for the WBG to innovate, finance, and act collectively with partners to end gender-based violence, build and protect human capital, expand, and enable economic opportunities and engage women as leaders. Adopting laws that strengthen women’s economic rights and opportunities is an essential first step toward inclusive, resilient, and stronger societies. But accelerating gender equality is only possible if laws are adequately implemented and enforced. The Women, Business and the Law 2024 report reveals key legal and policy opportunities in 190 countries to foster an enabling environment for women to thrive. 

The event was organized by the World Bank Group, in partnership with the Umbrella Facility for Gender Equality (UFGE) and Women, Business and the Law.

Follow the event on Twitter #AccelerateEquality

00:00 Introducing the first panel
07:33 Women and decision-making
14:19 Promoting diversity and leadership
18:55 Women and peace-making
29:47 Advancing legal reforms in Jordan

- Anna Bjerde, Managing Director of Operations, The World Bank
- Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Social Development, South Africa
- Isata Mahoi, Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs for Sierra Leone
- Wafa Saed Bani Mustafa, Minister of Social Development, Jordan

43:02 Introducing the second panel
45:23 Collective leadership in support of gender equality
52:37 Addressing different visions on gender equality
58:27 The role of civil society
1:04:50 Bringing women to leadership positions
1:11:04 Closing remarks

- Mamta Murthi, Vice President for Human Development, World Bank
- Gary Barker, CEO and co-founder of Promundo-US
- Silvana Koch-Mehrin, President and Founder of Women Political Leaders
- Aline Alblbol, Youth Delegate, Plan International
- Kirsi Madi, Deputy Executive Director for Resource Management, Sustainability and Partnerships, UN Women

[Anna Bjerde] I am really happy that you're joining us today. I'm delighted to be here. Anna Bjerde from the World Bank, Managing Director for Operations. And I am joined by a very great group of champions for a topic I care so much about, which is gender equality and empowerment. And we know each other very well by now because we spent breakfast together. So I'm looking forward to continue. Now we're eating again together, eating and talking and advancing on this important agenda. So I'm really happy to see so many people here. I also wanted to give a very warm welcome to the online audience. I understand there's quite a bit of quite a few people connected, and it's wonderful to be able to have so many people both in the room and online. I also wanted to just stress how important the commission on the status for women is. It's for us to collectively come together, uplift women's voices and set a higher ambition for women equality. Needless to say, I know you join me in saying it, but I will say it. Gender equality is essential for development, and I think we feel it and see it each and every day. It requires certainly urgent action as well as collective action to accelerate the pace of change. We know it. The evidence is clear. Removing gender barriers unlocks economic productivity, reduces poverty and deepens social cohesion. And it's the participation of women in decision making, whether in communities, businesses, workplaces and households, that is key to the wellbeing for all. But it's costing us too much not to have gender equality. The latest woman business and the law report that came out just last week reveals that women have less than two thirds the rights that men have, with an even wider gap in practice due to inadequate implementation of laws. And this is something I learned last year, and I'm still digesting this. No country in the world, in the world provides truly equal opportunities for women. That's a pretty stark finding, and I keep asking, there has to be at least one country. There's no country in the world that does this. The other very grave issue is that gender-based violence is, we know it, a grave violation of human rights. GBV hurts individual survivors, their families, communities and entire societies. It also has a substantial cost. And for those of us in the development sphere, to put it into an expression of GDP, global domestic product is actually quite compelling. 3.7% is what intimate partner violence can cost economies. Creating opportunities for women and girls is, of course, also very, very central to addressing global challenges. We've increased human capital for women and girls. But despite that, labor force participation has been stagnant since 1990. On average, it's 53% for women and it's 80% for men. So a huge gap there and closing the gender gap in employment could actually raise long-term GDP per capita by nearly 20% on average across countries. We know that firms lose out when women are not included in leadership. Firms with at least 30% women leaders had net profit margins up to six percentage points higher than firms without women leaders. Gender balance in corporate boardrooms and managers is associated with lower CO2 emissions and better climate outcomes. These numbers are stark, but they're also such good facts to have, and it gives us some optimism for the way forward it has to. What else does? The power of women and girls and their allies, and the potential of our partnerships actually amplify this. And at the World Bank, we're raising our ambition and engaging differently. Our new strategy will support innovation, financing and collective action to accelerate equality and end poverty on a livable planet. And in case you missed it, that's actually our new vision of the World Bank, ending poverty on a livable planet. And I just take a moment. The livable planet is really important because it's the first time that we put a global public good in our vision statement. And it means, of course, climate change, which we're also concerned about, but it also means all the other important things, like clean air, access to water, access to services, human development outcomes. So for me, a livable planet without all that is really not a livable planet. So I wanted to just pause and take a moment there on that. I really want to also emphasize another thing, and that is the collective action part. It takes all of us, it takes all of us partners to really address the issues that we have to address, wherever you are. And I believe that by putting urgency on this, we can actually, together, do a lot Now, as I mentioned, I'm joined by three exceptional leaders, three exceptional ministers who've been accelerating progress in their own countries with great impact, that is important for their countries, but also important for the rest of the world. The honorable Dr. Isata Mahoi, Minister of Gender and children's affair from Sierra Leone, is with us. Thank you for being with us. [audience applauds] Dr. Mahoi brings over 20 years of operational and research experience to her role. Her specialties are in the areas of gender inclusion and women's empowerment, social risk management, monitoring and evaluation, and peace and reconciliatory processes. I'm also so happy to have her Excellency, Wafa Saed Bani Mustafa, with us. [audience applauds] Her Excellency is the Minister of Social Development of Jordan. And prior to her current ministerial position, she was the Minister of State for Legal Affairs and is an accomplished lawyer by profession, transitioning to a political career. And I was so amazed to learn this morning, and I really want to give her lots of recognition. She's the first woman to win three consecutive terms in the House of Representatives in Jordan. Congratulations. [audience applauds] And finally, her Excellency, Lindiwe Zulu, who serves as South Africa's Minister of Social Development with a very rich background in politics and communication, and who shared with us this morning also the important policy measures that can be taken to reach much greater inclusion. And I know she'll be joining us to share some of those today. So I'm going to turn first to you, Minister Zulu. You've been engaged throughout your career in activism for gender equality. Can you share with us why is it so important to have women participate in decision making?

[Lindiwe Zulu] Thank you very much for the opportunity and a very good afternoon to you all. I'm hoping that you were in the assembly, many of you, listening to the women who made very strong presentation, or both men and women who made very strong presentations about the importance of women empowerment. And representing South Africa, Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was supposed to be here. I think many expected her. And to fill in those shoes of Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is very difficult. But I start from the fact that she doesn't walk alone. I am a product of women like Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. And the fact that she was able to ask me, and of course, through the president to come here, is when somebody steps up and says, if I'm not able to go, somebody else can be able to do the job. That's the first thing. The second thing is my involvement in the empowerment of women. I'll be very personal for a second, is that I was brought up by a grandmother who was just a simple domestic worker in Johannesburg, who made it her. I don't know what to call it. She just said to us, none of us must be domestic workers. And she did everything she could to keep eight children in school, feeding them. And she said, education is much more important than anything else. So I held on to that, even though in the beginning I didn't understand what it meant. I was to understand years later, her sacrifice for making sure that we get educated as a family. Thirdly, for me was being involved in the liberation struggle, where first and foremost in the struggle itself, whether you were a student or whether you were in the military wing of the African National Congress, women were never given the opportunity to lead, and yet we were doing exactly the same thing of everybody. And so women like [Unintelligible name], who is here with us, who is the current speaker, were the leaders of women we were younger, who were able to say to us, we must not wait for the liberation of South Africa to start their struggle for women's emancipation. So that's my background, because right there and then, as we were doing other things in pursuant of a free, democratic and non-racial South Africa, the women who were in the African National Congress at that time said, “We are not going to wait for freedom in order for us to start this struggle. Especially because women in South Africa had already been involved in the struggle, right?” In the 50s. And I think everybody knows about the March of 1956, of the women who marched there. So I've got that background that impacted on me as I was growing up, and also being assisted by a woman who never went to school, who could not read and write, who, whatever, but who was very clear that she, having been a domestic worker, her grandchildren are never going to be domestic workers. So combined that, plus the liberation struggle of freeing South Africa, plus the organization that said, we won't wait until and then did something about it. So when we arrived back in South Africa pre-1994, it was the women who mobilized themselves into something called Women's Coalition. Because for us, it was, irrespective of your color, your race, your creed, or whatever, as long as you were part and parcel of the women that were going to be fighting for the emancipation of women and the support of women. It was for that reason that we had the kind of constitution that we have. So that entire background up till today, the Constitution, and then all the legislation that we've passed since then, the Labor Relations Act, the termination of Pregnancy Act, the recognition of Customary Marriage Act, Domestic Violence Act, Maintenance Act, all those acts were a result of women who decided long before freedom that they must fight for the emancipation of women. So it became automatic when we got into government, when some of us had the privilege and opportunity of being in government. It became something that you couldn't drop because that's how you've been growing up within the journey. So for me, it is the journey that we have traveled and for being here, exposed to this, it's a continuation of that journey. And that journey must not happen with me now, now that I'm privileged, I can be able to come here. Then I forget about the rest of the women, women in the rural areas, women who do not have the same capacity as the opportunity as I have. It's about us continuing being united. Lastly, in addition to that, we were women of the African National Congress. But when the opportunity came for negotiations and we realized that no women were in the negotiations table, we forgot about the fact that, “by the way, I'm ANC, you are PAC, you are whatever.” We just decided, we shall be united as women, and we shall demand space at the table of negotiations. And for any of the political parties who were there who did not want to bring in women, we will ask them to leave one empty chair. That shows that they do not want women to be part and parcel of negotiations, and nobody wanted to be seen to be doing that. unfortunately for us, if you go back to that history, you'll find there are many political parties that didn't bother. They couldn't care. But it's difficult for them not to care, not to focus on it today, because when it comes to the challenge of women, we forget about our different political parties and our differences. We unite as women to make sure that. So that's my history, and I don't think anyone can take that away from my history, because that's why I remain, even in government, I'm still an activist. Thank you. [audience applauds]

[Anna Bjerde] Thank you. I'm going to stay with you and just ask, if I may, one more question, which is we're here in the United Nations building, which is, of course, an incredible place to be because it is, in many ways, the world. What would you say are some of your lessons as you look back on the most effective ways of promoting diversity and leadership?

[Lindiwe Zulu] Well, unfortunately for us at the moment, we are in a very difficult global environment, and global challenges which in many instances then end up reducing the importance of the issues that are facing women. We've got the war in Ukraine, then we've got the genocide almost, and South Africa has stood up very firmly against that. And that we must mobilize other people. However, to remain relevant, it's important for us when we come to such platforms, and let me thank you, because it's also about these institutions enabling us. And so here we are. You have enabled us to come and speak here. And when we speak inside the UN, of course, it's every country or every organization making their presentation. What is important is these institutions transformation. Unfortunately for us, the transformation of the institutions within the United Nations itself is taking very long. And it's worse for us now when they announce there— That, oh, we have to finish at 06:00 because there's— What you call it?[inaudible] No. They said we must finish at 06:00 because we can't extend like we normally extend, because of financial challenges, whatever the case might be. What does that say to us? We would have wanted to take all the time. I'm not saying we could stay there until midnight, but the mere fact that the United Nations is facing those kind of challenges, and yet we are saying there's got to be transformation of this institution. I think it's what women must not stand back and let happen. Because for us in South Africa, for instance, the United Nations has always been a center where peoples who are in struggles and all they come here. It was these very United Nations that declared apartheid a crime against humanity. And when it declared apartheid a crime against humanity, it was member states that stood up and supported that. And then it enabled the struggle to be propelled much faster and quicker. So we cannot afford now, I can't say because apartheid is no longer there. I'm not concerned about other countries. I'm not concerned about what's happening in Gaza, what's happening in the African continent itself. With all the conflicts that are raging and the impact of that conflict on women. This is the center where we believe, as South Africa, nations across the board can come together and say, how do we stop this? And how do we stop what? How do we stop poverty, hunger, unemployment, inequality, all the negatives that happen? How do we make ourselves to understand that humanity is humanity. Having no water, no electricity, no means of employment? It's a problem not only for one nation, it's a problem for the entire worldwide. That's what we'd like to leave here with you to say. The struggle continues in each and every corner where we are. We must make sure that these United Nations that have gone this far in dealing with the most diverse, most difficult issues, it's still standing, but it will stand as a shell if the people who are supposed to be in it, who are supposed to propel our struggles, are unable to do so. Thank you.

[Anna Bjerde] Thank you. [audience applauds] I wanted to pick up on something important, which you said is the role of women in dealing with really challenging and difficult issues. And I think, again, we have a lot of evidence that when women are in leadership across many dimensions, the decision making can be a lot better. And I actually witnessed this firsthand when I traveled, and I traveled a few weeks ago to a country that has gone through significant peace process engagements, and the role of women has been very, very significant. And with that, I want to actually turn to Minister Mahoi, because you exactly have expertise in peace and reconciliatory processes. And what I wanted to ask you is to share with us how can we engage women, and in fact, also girls, in shaping more durable peace in our communities, in their communities, and especially in context where there are protracted violence? Over to you, Minister.

[Isata Mahoi] Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity. I would like to say thank you to the organizers and thank you to World Bank for having me here. I'll present to you briefly the situation of women in Sierra Leone before now. Before now, many women in Sierra Leone did not have the opportunity to go to school, to be educated. So many families will prefer, once the girl is about 12 or 13 years of age, they will send you off to get married. So they believe that a girl child will bring income for the family and the boy child should go to school. This practice was very much common, especially in the northern part of Sierra Leone. So then people started campaigning after [Unintelligible name]. We started bringing out laws. We started domesticating some of these laws, and then it begins to change the narratives. So what happens? Even when parents send their children to school, they will still remove them after completing primary education. So they will say, “She will still be somebody that brings money to the family after getting married.” So there has been this situation for women a long time. And when, like, for instance, there are visitors coming to communities to have meetings, the women will be asked to be cooking for those visitors, and they will not participate in discussions. Even when it has to do with women, women do not participate in discussions that matters to them. So they will ask them to be at the back whilst discussions are ongoing. So every development was centered around men, because we are in a patriarchal society. And this went on and on and on. Then we had the war. The war came. Some of the women were conscripted. Some of them were part of the war. Some of them were also peace builders. So women played great roles during the war, some of them as child soldiers. And they will tell you some of the grave things they went through during those processes. So after that horrible eleven years we had with the war, then women started positioning themselves that we need to take action, we need to be at the forefront of development. So women started pushing. Started pushing for the agenda to be recognized. And by the year 2000, when we had the resolution, 1325, yes. Then many groups of women came forward, started pushing for women's rights to be recognized. So this is how, by 2007, we started having our first laws that supported women. We have the registration of customary marriage in 2009, which rightly contradicts the rights of a child, because in the 2007 Child Rights Act, it says a child is somebody that is 18 years and below. But the registration of Customary Marriage and Divorce Act is also contradicting, saying that a child even below age 16 can get married with the consent of the guardian or the parents. Then you are still violating the rights of girls. So now we are also challenged with bad policies, policies that contradict each other. How do you manage the situation? How do you manage this? So there were issues between civil society and the states, there were issues with communities. People do not get it right. One law is saying this, another law is saying that. So eventually, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which recommended— One of its recommendations said that by 2014, the country should have got gender parity, which was not the case. We struggled. Everybody worked together. I was into civil society by then, and then working with government, together with international or development partners, we are pushing for this agenda. It took us long. It took us very long, because by then a lot of girls were suffering. A lot of girls have been sent to marriages where they are already in homes where the husband is twice older than the father. And also maybe there are other three or four women in that house. So they bear the burden of giving birth to children that their bodies are not even ready to accept. They cannot take care of the girls, and then the burden also transfers on the children. So it becomes a very big challenge for Sierra Leone, and people are becoming very tired. But with collective efforts, partnership, joint collaborations, by the year 2020, there was the Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment Policy, which we, by 2022, we decided to pass into law because of the political will. The environment was there. The presidents and the government officials then, I was into civil society then, they were also pushing for that law. It became a very hot topic at parliament. It took us 13 months to pass that particular bill into a law. But eventually we did, which is now positioning women in financial inclusion. Women that are working should also get leave days, from 12 weeks to 14 weeks, and then also encouraging them for women to have AI jobs as well as the men. So these particular laws position women. So what happened in 2023? In 2023, we had our elections, but before the elections, there were a couple of other laws that came into being. We have the National Land Commission Act of 2022, which also is positioning women for owning land by themselves. Because what used to happen also was women jointly will own property with their husbands. The husband, maybe if he dies or anything happens, the husband's family will take the property, if the woman does not get married to somebody, else in the family. They do not consider whether the husband died of HIV and AIDS. They don't consider anything. They will force you to get married into a family, into somebody that maybe you don't love, you don't have affection for. So many psychosocial or psychological problems were affecting women. So that particular law made it possible for women to own property, even at customary land area. So now it will help in the empowerment of women. Once you have the access or ownership to land, you can decide what is it that you want to plant on that land. You get the proceeds and you decide what you want to do with the money. But before that time, if you were jointly owning the property, the man will sell, get the yields, marry another woman and they will force you to accept that other woman. So you are going through trauma. But now the situation is beginning to change. And we also have the Political Parties Regulations Act, which made it possible for political parties to position women. So for every constituency that you are going to appoint women or going to identify women as [parents], at least one should be a woman. And then it positions women. And then today in our parliament, in the last parliament, we had 18 women. Today we have made a great increase in the representation of women in parliament. We've got 42 women compared to the last parliament of 2022, which was 18. And it's also in the appointive positions where our president had appointed somebody like me, who was into civil society. And it was news all over. Everybody was surprised, even me, myself. Somebody called me that said, oh, the president has appointed you. I was buying fish, I was shopping and then somebody called me: “Isata, where are you?” I said, “I'm buying fish.” He said, “Forget about the fish, you are buying. You are being announced as the Minister of Gender and Children's Affairs.” I was shocked. [audience applauds] So because the president wanted to ensure that they implement the Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment Act, because we have been challenged with policies. You develop good policies, you lay them on the shelves without implementing them. So now in cabinet, we have ten women who are full ministers. We have eleven who are deputy ministers. It used to be five. So we've cut this number and other women have been appointed in other leadership position. But it's as a result of the implementation of the GEWE Act. Today the World Bank is supporting the implementation of the GEWE Act in my ministry. They are [varied] consultants who is taking the Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment Act forward, ensuring that all ministries, departments and agencies have the gender units within that. They have been trained. Now we want to use a gender scorecard that is being developed by UN women, which is positioning as the framework that we'll be using to gather data that will inform us every year for the position where Sierra Leone is coming from, where we're going to and what needs to be done to get change. So this is what we have been doing so far as a country.

[Anna Bjerde] Wonderful. Thank you so much. [audience applauds] I think we heard of how important the right legislation can be underpinned by policies. But I also like that you mentioned reference to a scorecard of sorts to also be able to measure the implementation and the impact. I want to turn to Minister Mustafa now, who we're going to stay on the topic of legislation because, Minister Mustafa, you have been involved in advancing legal reforms in Jordan and in particular related to gender-based violence that has improved the lives of very many people. But you've also been involved and engaged in training women both in terms of political as well as economic aspects. Can you share with us why is legislation so important? And how has it changed the life of women in Jordan? And also what about the training? How has that also helped empower women in Jordan? Over to you, Minister.

[Wafa Saed Bani Mustafa] Thank you. And thank you for this opportunity to learn from amazing ladies in the hall. And I want to return back to 2010 when I was young mother from district Jarash in Jordan. And in that time I decided to run and lawyer, very active lawyer and I decided to run for the parliament. In that time, in my vision and my hope was to be the change of the worker young women from my district in Jarash. I want to be the change to see in Jordan. So when I ran to the parliament, I insisted to belong to the legal committee. And it was a male committee as everywhere. And I became the reporter for the legal committee. And it was not easy to compete with another man who has a long history in politics and also in law. And I was the youngest member in the parliament in that time. I was in the minimum age that allowed to Jordanian youth to run for office. So it was not easy at all. But I believe that if we want to change the culture, we need to also to deal with the legislations and with the laws. So I started my mission and I focus a lot on a lot of things very important for Jordanian women like the penal code. In that time, I remember, we have an article in our penal code allowed to the rapist to marriage the victim and escape from the punishment. And as a lawyer and as a human being and as a mother and as woman, I think it was horrible thing to have something like this in our penal code. So I started a campaign to publish this article and it was not easy, but also with other partner civil society, dealing with the men inside, also the parliament, working with also the powerful group inside Jordan, talking with women, with men, engaging the local communities in this. It was not easy, but I think it was a big lesson for me because after we published this article and it's become a big successful story for us and it gives us the hope that we can also change other articles and change the society by changing the laws and legislation. And after that we change the domestic violence law and we enter very important articles in our domestic violence law. And also it was not easy inside the parliament, because also in our parliament we need to go to each one and talk with them because a lot of our members of the parliament are independent, not belonging to political parties. And so the things become more difficult. They came from independent and tribal backgrounds. So this also was not easy. But I think women can do a lot of things if they believe in themselves and if they also work together. This is very important. I believe in coalition. I started the Caucus Network inside the parliament in 2015. And in that time they told me: “Why you need Caucus for Women,” because I tell them always, we have different needs. We belong to different backgrounds or ideologies or political parties, but we have unified things to deal. This is called the Women Rights File. So we need to deal with this despite the fact that we are from different backgrounds or different political parties or different ideologies. So I think this is also—. When I became a Minister for Legal Affairs in the first time, I was not buying fish, I was sleeping [Mustafa laughs] and they called me and told me to see the prime minister and he offered me to be the legal affairs minister. And I was the first woman in my country who became legal affairs minister. This is something [audience applauds] very important because always I'm very proud now because I am in the social development ministry and this is always they giving the social development ministry for women. But this is also very important for me that I start my position in the cabinet to be the first legal affairs minister. In that time, I worked a lot to enhance and put all the suggestions coming from the royal committee to have the political reform in the country. In that time, we changed our constitution. We have a big debate in Jordan to change and add one article to our constitution talking about the state guarantee to empowering women in all sectors and protecting them from all kind of violence and discrimination. This was a big dream for us. And having an article like this talking not only about women, no, not only about violence or discrimination, about all the things inside our constitution. It was something big but with a lot of debate inside the public opinion. Also [we changed] the Political Party's Law to guarantee that at least 20 percentage of the founder of any political party should be a woman. At least one person with disabilities should be founder for the political parties. At least 20 percentage of youth should be founder for any political parties. So this is very big and huge. But the good things now. We are during the implementation of this Political Party’s Law. We have now, before I came, the numbers show that we have more than— 44 percentage of our political parties are founders and membership from women and this is very good for us. And 80% from the percentage of women in the leading position inside the political parties became 80%. And this is also a huge change for us. Also in our election law, the percentage of women inside the parliament was a struggle and only the local seat from the quota for women. Now we will have in this year— The new election happened according to the new law and this will guarantee at least two women in each political list, national political list. So I think we are in the right way in Jordan. And I want to mention also what we do in the economic legislation. As I mentioned in the morning, we changed the labor law. We criminalize the different pay for men and women inside the law. We changed a lot of things in Social Security law and we changed our company's law to guarantee that also each company should have at least 20 percent in the board from women. So I think this kind of change will change also the society and also will give the hope for the young generation because I always told my colleague, we came to the politics life and we see and found the door open. We should keep this door open for the young generation and make the way more easy for them.

[Anna Bjerde] Thank you, Minister Mustafa. Because I think that's a beautiful place [audience applauds] in fact, to end which is listening to the three of you. First of all, it's amazing what you've achieved in your countries but it's amazing also the milestones and the stage that you're setting up for the next generation. So I thought it was a beautiful place for you to end right there. I want to thank all of you for engaging today. I'm going to turn it over to Mamta. Thank you. [audience applauds]

[Mamta Murthi] So thank you so much, Anna. I'm delighted that we've been able to bring a focus on women as leaders. This is one of the central planks of our gender strategy. And I'm absolutely delighted that we've had these three terrific female leaders who are exiting behind me but have shared their incredible experience in government. Now we're going to shift focus. Instead of talking about political rights and anti GBV laws and access to land for women, we're going to talk about the role of civil society and how partnerships can support female leadership. And I'm delighted to have with me Gary Barker, who is the president and CEO of Equimundo. Many of us know Gary. He's a leading voice on engaging men and boys to advance gender equality. Welcome, Gary. We also have Ms. Silvana Koch-Mehrin, who's the President and Founder of Women Political Leaders. This is a worldwide network of women politicians and they serve a role in increasing both the number and influence of women in decision making. Welcome, Silvana. We also have joining us Dr. Kirsi Madi, who's the Deputy Executive Director for Resource Management, Sustainability and Partnerships at UN Women. And I discovered just before this lunch that she had a stellar career at UNICEF before joining UN women. So we will hear perspectives from her. And finally, last but not least, we have Aline, who's from Plan International. She's a youth delegate. She's a passionate advocate for young people, and she's involved in the She Leads program in her own country. I now am going to join this illustrious panel, grab a microphone and ask them a few questions. So I'm absolutely delighted that we're going to have this opportunity to talk about collective leadership for women's equality. And we are all going to bring very different perspectives to this issue. And the whole idea is to try and put some meat, try to put some substance under this idea of collective leadership. I know, Kirsty, you have a hard stop at 2:45, and I'm going to try and respect that. But I'm going to begin with the young person in the room. There are many young people, but on the stage we have one person, I think, who would qualify as young. No offense intended. I'm going to turn to you, Aline, and my first question is going to be to you. And my question to you really is, what would you do? What would you recommend to actively address and bring together the collective leadership of everyone in support of gender equality? I'd like you to begin by saying a few words on what gender equality means to you. So over to you. You have a microphone.

[Aline Alblbol] Yes, I do. Hello, everyone. Thank you for this opportunity, really. Beginning with, what is gender equality? Well, gender equality or achieving gender equality means to me that I won't be here again at the 100th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, where me and other girls and young women still ask for our basic human rights. Girls and young women want to be or want to live in a world where we have or we can enjoy actually equal rights, whether socially, economically and politically. And with the burden of inequality looming over us. So we, as girls and young women, we dream of a world where our roles as activists is obsolete, not because we don't want to be activists, but we shouldn't have to be asking for our rights. We shouldn't have to do it actually. We deeply want and desire to live in fulfillment in a life that's fulfilling, where the pursuit of basic human rights and services, such as access to health care, education is not a perpetual battle. We need to eliminate systematic obstacles that marginalized girls often live because relegating them to second class status due to factors such as gender, age and religion and other characteristics that makes us go through that. We need to stop the systematic that makes us go through the second class as girls and young women. So as we look to the future right now, we want to be accommodated in places where we also participate in decision making, because you cannot be taking decisions for our lives without us. We are the ones who endure these struggles. So it's really important for us to have spaces where we can also speak and decide for ourselves as well. As I said, we are the ones who endure these struggles. Participation decision-making processes should not be —for youth at least— Our participation in decision-making processes should not be exceptional, but actually expected, because we're part of the system, we're part of this world. We should be also deciding for ourselves, because later on we're the ones who are living as well this long life. We demand respect, protection and fulfillment for our human rights as non-negotiables. We want the provision of essential services, including health, education, Social Security, even, and especially during periods of instability, be it caused by conflict, political instability, and ongoing climate crisis. We call for immediate action and not just towards long negotiating whether we will have the strides or not. Poverty is systematic and we want to disrupt and reform all systems that force us to continue living in poverty. Addressing systematic poverty requires strategies that address the root cause of these inequality and empowering girls and young women through education, economic opportunities, and so on. So many things that you can do addressing the systematic issues that address poverty as well. We demand the expansion of access to help to include mental and physical education. We demand safe, inclusive spaces for girls and young women. We demand a sustainable infrastructure, recognizing that physical roads and building are important, but also need access to technology and digital spaces that empower us. Gender transformative environmental policy in action is not optional. It is essential. As we strive for a world free from gender-based discrimination, we must also commit to a planet that is healthy, resonant, and equitable. The lives of girls and young women and the environment are interlinked or interconnected, and our responses must reflect in that reality as well. In 2021, 59.1 million people were internally displaced across the world. The majority due to climate disasters, and that is a huge number that is also still in decrease. Increase actually. Wish it decreased. Put ours and the plan's interest first. The only accountability we need from you is to explain why you cannot put our interest first. Poverty is not merely a number or a percentage of reports. It represents a tangible daily struggle for countries, for countless women and girls worldwide. I'm one of them, and so many in the room as well. The time for change is now. We do not want to inherit a world that we have to spend our entire life fixing. We seek a future where gender inequality is a relic of the past, and girls and young women are recognized as equal partners in shaping this world. We are not just asking for a room to negotiate our rights. We're actually demanding a world where we can live, thrive, and lead. Thank you. [audience applauds]

[Mamta Murthi] Thank you so much, Aline. I like very much what you said at the outset, that gender equality for you means that you wouldn't have to be in places advocating for gender equality. It is something that would be automatically recognized. You also had a very interesting list of demands, and if I can just summarize them, Aline was saying that if we're really concerned about the world that the young people will inherit, well, it really has to be a world that is worthy for young people to inherit. It's a world which is a livable planet. It's a world in which the health and the education of young people has been invested in. It's a world that is worth inheriting. So those are very powerful messages that you've given us. Now, if we all want to engage in this agenda, we need to be of a like mind. But one of the challenges that we've noticed is that when you do opinion surveys, there's a big contrast between what young men today want and what young women today want. And this is quite striking. Women lean –I'm just going to make it simple. Take a little bit of liberty with the truth. Women lean to the left and men lean to the right. And that is a challenge so I'm going to bring Kirsi in on this. And I'm going to ask you, Kirsi, why do you think this division of view on where things should go with respect to gender equality, why do you think this difference has emerged and how do you think it can be addressed? It's going to be very hard to all advocate for gender equality if views are so divergent. Over to you, Kirsi.

[Kirsi Madi] Thank you. Thank you so much, Mamta, and thank you, Aline, for your wonderful introduction, kicking us to the discussion and apologies in advance that I have to leave shortly. Just to say, we are indeed seeing this growing resistance, unfortunately, to gender equality, women's right and women's empowerment. And unfortunately, it is well resourced and it's quite orchestrated resistance that is there. And it is actually resulting really in a shrinking civic space And I think we need to be just very clear that not wanting to have gender equality, not wanting to have women's rights, not wanting to have an empowerment of women, that is discrimination. It's very important to be very clear about that. And we are very concerned about the attitudes that are spreading and are spreading also among the young generations. At UN Women, we are hosting a secretariat for something, what is called Unstereotype Alliance. It's alliance of several hundred private sector companies which are working in advertisement and marketing. And we are partnering with these private sector companies to really try to, through their daily work, to try to shape and work against the stereotypes. Now, as part of that work, they carried out last year a survey on social norms and sort of attitude study. And unfortunately, what came across was quite worrying. Almost 60% of young women, young men between 16 and 19 felt that men would be better political leaders. Over 50% of these young men said women should work less and devote more time caring for their families. Very worryingly, nearly one in four of young men believe that it's acceptable in some instances to hit a partner or spouse. I think this is really, really worrying. This is our future. This is our young men. And these type of gender biases actually are really pronounced across the regions, across income levels, across levels of development and across countries. So it is really a global issue that we need to address. And it is critically addressed that we are really working very proactively on positive social norms. I think that's absolutely critical. And I'm sorry that I'm going to later on miss what Gary is going to be talking because Equimundo and engaging men alliance is so important work and really it's important that we merge our voices and really see how we can engage men and boys much more as positive role models and really help to transform the unequal power relations that we are seeing. We do need all of society's support. We need the legal reforms, the policy reforms. We need the governments take their part. We need the legislators do their part. We need the social movements, the civil society, and we need the private sector, and we need the young girls and boys really helping us to shift. So I would just say the strong call for investing, investing in empowerment, investing in protection and reaffirming all of us, really our commitment to advance gender equality, women's empowerment and women's rights as fundamental human rights. Let's take a very positive approach. We need to push forward against any backlash and pushback. We need to really fill the space with the positive messages, with the data to inform decision making, but also with the positive images and examples, how we can make a positive change in the society, working all of us together and really promoting women's rights as part of fundamental human rights. Thank you so much. [audience applauds]

[Mamta Murthi] Thank you so much, Kirsi. You made a very powerful call for all of us working together so that these investments in gender equality can be made. And it involves everyone. It involves governments, it involves civil society, international organizations, legislators. I'm going to bring in Gary at this point to talk a little bit about civil society actors. Gary, I think you know a thing or two about how are attitudes towards gender equality? How do they come into being and how malleable are they and how can they be influenced? Can you say a few words from the perspective of Equimundo, particularly on this issue of attitudes towards gender equality and the views on this from both sides of the spectrum?

[Gary Barker] Sure. Thank you, Mamta, for the invitation. And Kirsi had to leave, but I'll pick up on some of her comments. So our work has been both studying where men are on gender equality and trying to figure out how do we bring them along. And I think these global research results that Kirsi just shared are quite illustrative of where we are. Many men and young men either see gender equality as against them or they're quite confused about what it is. And I think we as civil society have been trying to figure out how do we bring men along and what could be embedded in ministries of social development and ministries of gender equality to make it an ongoing activity that we try to bring men along because we clearly see from where we are in the world now that men are not getting it or they're in fact being active opposition. So first off on that 50% that seem to be against gender equality, I'm concerned about that. But we also see that about 25% to 30% are typically in favor of it. I'm talking about young and adult men. We don't do much to make men active allies. To say, this is what we need you to do. Two ways that we've experimented with in our work that I think offer some ideas. One is we've got to get beyond the zero sum notion. There are some things that if men believe in gender equality, it is good for us as men. And I can give some examples. Men who have more equitable views about gender tend to take care of their health more. Men who do more hands-on caregiving of their children tend to have better mental health and report that they are happier in their relationships. In men who— Sorry, I wanted to pick up on a point there. Men who— Sorry. Boys in schools, where we pay attention to girl safety, tend to do better in school. That is, bullying, for example, will decline when we try to make schools safer for girls. Public spaces, when we have policies in place that make the world safer for women, typically, they're safer for men as well. And I think we've too often kind of forgotten that it's okay to say men see some benefits from gender equality as well. And then the harder part of the conversation, and this is where we need men and women working together as political leaders to make this point very clear. There are other things, like who gets promoted in a given organization, who gets to sit on a board? How many politicians are women or men? There are spaces where we have to say, men, welcome to a world where competition is fair, where you are as likely or as unlikely as a woman to win that position. We have to be willing to say that as well. There are spaces where it is a zero sum game, but many spaces where it's not. So what have we learned as NGOs working in this space? Two of the biggest issues that we think there's a clear pathway forward for male allyship are these. One is the care economy. We heard from the beginning, Anna mentioned there's no country in the world that has achieved gender equality. There's no country in the world that has achieved care equality. That is men and women doing half equal amounts of the hands on care work in our homes. We haven't put in place the policies to do that. Parental leave policies. We heard from the minister from Sierra Leone the importance of leave policies for women. At the moment, leave for men is available in a growing number of countries, but still doesn't reach even half the countries in the world. And it typically is about ten days compared to three to four months for women. If we want men to do half the care work, we have to put the policies in place for men to do half the care work. We found that parent training, particularly father focused training, there's a wonderful piece in NPR that came out for those who follow about the city of Bogota and its efforts to make father training a normal thing so that men feel they don't have an excuse of saying, “I don't know how to do this”. So one I see is caregiving. The other one is around gender-based violence. And there again, I think we fail to look at the ways that the experiences of violence that women have at the hands of men are often born in the violence that men witness when they're children. The harmful childhoods of boys and girls are related to the adult violence that some men use against too many women. And I think while we've done a lot of work and have to do more on calling men out, we need to do more to bring men in to break the silence for those men who acknowledge and already see the harm that violence against women causes. So those are the two issues that we have focused on as civil society because we can see effects. The World Bank has been gathering the evidence on some of this and has been quite key about saying we know both how to drive men's caregiving and we know how to drive reductions in gender-based violence. So those would be, to me, the two of the ways ahead.

[Mamta Murthi] Thank you so much, Gary. I think what you have really underlined is that gender equality is good for everyone. It's good for women, it's good for men. And I think it's not a zero sum game. I think that is a very strong message that you've given and that both men and women need to work together for gender equality. In Women SPEAK, if I may call it that. It's called Engaging Men in Boys in the Issue of Gender Equality. But I think what we are really saying is that we have to engage all parts of society on something that is important for all members of society. With that, I'm coming to you, Silvana, because you have incredible experience in thinking about women, in bringing women to leadership positions, but also thinking about how parliaments might legislate on these issues depending on the composition of the parliaments. So I would love you to reflect on the conversation that we've had, how important gender equality is. It's important for both men and women. Women in leadership can promote gender equality, but it's more complex than that. Share with us your experience on this issue.

[Silvana Koch-Mehrin] Thank you very much. And just picking up on some of the things that the previous speakers have been saying. So first, Aline, where you were saying you actually think conferences like this, the CSW, shouldn't be needed anymore because we have the equality. Politics is that part where progress is the slowest. And that's a challenge. The World Economic Forum every year checks the global gender gap report and four different sections. And in politics, at the current speed of change, it would still take more than 130 years before we come to anything that could be called equality. But that is if we would have more progress, more women getting into political leadership. And then also what you mentioned, Gary, about that sometimes we need to change the narrative and need to actively engage men in the benefits of what it provides to them. I just want to share an anecdote. Last Tuesday, in the upfront to Women's Day, I spoke at a joint conference of the Japanese parliament and the European Union. And it was very refreshing in a way that one of the male Japanese parliamentarians said, well, he gets it. It's good for society if there are more women in politics. But more women in politics means less men in politics. And this would mean that some men would have to leave. And why should they do that? And why should they agree on making laws that bring more women into politics? I thought it was refreshing that it's so openly put out there because that's the kind of forces that we are up against in that specific sector, because we cannot enlarge parliament indefinitely. Now we made together with— Based on this wonderful data of the World Bank, Women, Business and the Law, we really made a business case for why does it matter to have more women in politics? It showcases on data that's more than 40 years assembled that there is a very clear correlation of discrimination against women going down when there are more women in political decision making. And this is in the economic and the financial sphere, which means more women are involved, more economic growth, good for everybody. There's also important deviation. Some countries that get increasingly number into politics are not having that effect, which also shows it's not only about the numbers, it's also about the access to real decision making. And that's where it's astounding, the creativity that goes into finding ways around of having women have a real say in politics. And I'm German, we had for many years— She was considered as being one of the most powerful people of the world. Angela Merkel as the chancellor. Her term ended. Immediately, a man and two deputies became chancellor and two vice chancellors. And nobody wondered what's happening. We have seen in many countries, I live in Brussels, Belgium, where there is a quota for members of parliament, but then there is the core group of decision makers in the cabinet, and there is no more quota. And guess what? Often there's no women and sometimes there's just very few. So the necessity to be extremely granular and vigilant for not letting go, but for ending the overrepresentation of men in politics for the benefit of all of society is really crucial. So when we introduce measures, And the minister Zulu from South Africa and also Wafa talked about some of the measures, we need to really put our heads on how could we also stop the ways of creatively going around? But then, secondly, it's so important that women join politics, that women, both through their voting, but also through being candidates, through being ready to go into politics, show politics is about us, it matters to us. And this room is full of wonderful, capable, courageous, strong women. And if I could just plant this thought in your head by thinking I would put myself forward as a candidate. It's not a life sentence. It can be for a couple of years, it can also just be for making the election campaigning more full of women's voices. And I think it's really critical that we don't leave it to the usual pool of candidates to claim the political leadership for them. [audience applauds]

[Mamta Murthi] Thank you so much. Thank you so much, Silvana, especially for the message that every woman is, not just everyone in this room, but including the women in this room, every woman is a leader. So lean, throw your hat in the ring, so to speak. I have the unenviable job of having to close this in, I don't know, 60 seconds or 120 seconds after what has been a good panel. And I'm going to do what I know my team wants me to do. First of all, I'm going to remind you that as the World Bank, we have a gender strategy. It's a new gender strategy coming out, and it has women's leadership as a pillar. This is something we've never had before. So it's pretty big for us. The second thing is that I have to say about this pillar, which is on women's leadership, is that it has to do with leadership in the economic sphere, in the productive sphere. It has to do with having women on boards of companies. It has to do with having women as principals of schools. It has to do with having women as ministers and leading sectors where the predominant workforce is female. So while Silvana focuses on the political sphere, and I'm delighted that you do, we focus on the economic sphere, and we believe, and we have collected evidence that shows that having women in leadership positions in the economic sphere is actually good for decision making. It leads to a better use of government budgets, it leads to better run schools, it leads to better run health systems, and so on. So this is something that we intend to work on, and we want to pull everybody into this endeavor. I really hope that after this event, you will all be interested in looking at the gender strategy and also partnering with us in implementing it. Finally, I would not be doing my duty if I didn't try to reflect on what the panel said. And I very much take to heart that we all hope to be in a position where we don't need young women to be advocating for gender equality. But Silvana reminded us that it's a process, and the process is moving very slowly, and there's a lot more that we have to do. But we need to remind everybody that it's a process which brings benefits for everyone. And I think that message is a very powerful one that we have to take away. It's not what, as an economist, I would call a zero sum game. It's actually bringing something for everyone. And that's why we've been very keen to put out this data. And we're happy to be working with organizations like Equimundo, which point out that reducing the bullying of girls in school is actually good for both girls and boys. Reducing gender-based violence is actually quite good for reducing violence in society as a whole. Things like this that I think we should all be thinking about and be advocates for. Because if there's one thing I've learned in 25 years as a development professional, it's not good to have these antagonistic approaches to getting change. And we're actually in a good situation where we have evidence to show that something which is important, that we value in and of itself is actually good for everyone. Finally, this business of being a leader, it often generates controversy. It's difficult to be a leader. Just this morning, in a very interesting discussion we had, Minister Zuma was there, one of the ministers pointed out that one of the biggest challenges about being a woman in the public sphere is that you get trolled. You actually have to think very carefully about what you say, because somebody can just pull you down based on something that you've said. And let's not even begin talking about the dangers of AI. But that being said, I want to subscribe to the notion that things will not change if we don't make an attempt to change them. So I would see leadership at all levels. I would see being a leader in your own life as being something very important. We all have the ability to make some change around ourselves. So with that, let me conclude. Thank you very much for participating in this event, and I look forward to engaging with all of you on this very important agenda. Thank you. [audience applauds]

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