United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that gender inequality is the biggest human rights challenge the world is currently facing at the UN's International Women’s Day observance in New York City on Friday.
Calling himself a “proud feminist,” Guterres condemned men who continually abuse their power and referred to gender inequality as a grave injustice.
“Deep-rooted patriarchy and misogyny have created a yawning gender power gap in our economies, our political systems, our corporations, our societies, and our culture,” he said.
Guterres noted that the voices and opinions of women and girls all over the world are often still stifled by institutional misogyny, citing the signing of recent peace agreements, during which no women were present.
Women and girls across the globe still face large-scale inequality and discrimination. Women make up only 30% of the world’s politicians and lawmakers, according to a recent UN Women annual report.
The report also reveals that around 500,000 women and teenage girls over the age of 15 are unable to read.
The UN Development Program’s Gender Social Norms Index supports this data. The index found that 90% of men and women still hold varying degrees of gender bias against women, while 50% think that men are better suited to be politicians and government leaders than women.
Guterres gave his speech in anticipation of the adoption of a draft declaration commemorating the 25th anniversary of the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, which called for a comprehensive plan of action for achieving gender equality.
The draft declaration reasserts the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and acknowledges that progress has not gone far enough, vowing to take concrete action to ensure that the fight for gender equality progresses much more quickly and efficiently.
Guterres referenced the new declaration during his speech on Friday, noting that it is time for progress to pick up the pace.
“Twenty-five years after the Beijing conference, progress on women’s rights has stalled and even reversed,” he said. “We must push back against the push back. It is more important than ever for men to stand up for women’s rights and gender equality.”