Speech by Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi at Beijing+25 Celebration Women and Poverty Reduction in the 21st Century - 16 September 2020

Mme. Shen Yueyue, (Vice Chairperson of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, President of the All-China Women’s Federation)


- Excellencies,

- Distinguished guests,

- Ladies and gentlemen,


Good morning.


Let me begin by expressing our sincere thanks to All China Women’s Federation and UN Women in co-organizing this important event with the theme of Women and Poverty Reduction in the 21st century. On behalf of the UN in China, I am honored to be here, to commemorate Beijing+25 anniversary.  


Twenty-five years ago in Beijing, the Fourth World Conference on Women set a path-breaking agenda for women’s rights. China and the city of Beijing have been at the origin of this historic blueprint that articulates a vision of equal rights, freedom, and opportunities for women – everywhere. 


A global review of the progress achieved against commitments made at the world conference 25 years ago, conducted by UN Women earlier this year 2020, reveals that no country has fully delivered on the commitments of the Beijing Platform for Action, nor is close to it. Women currently hold just one quarter of the seats at the tables of power across the board. Men are still 75 per cent of parliamentarians, hold 73 per cent of managerial positions, are 70 per cent of climate negotiators and almost all the peacemakers.


This is not to say there has not been progress since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action. Some advances have been made: there are now more girls in school than ever before, fewer women are dying in childbirth, and over the past decade 131 countries have passed laws to support women’s equality. However, the progress has been far too slow and uneven.


The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is further exacerbating pre-existing inequalities and threatening to halt or reverse the gains of decades of collective effort – with just released new data revealing that the pandemic will push 47 million more women and girls below the poverty line globally. We are also witnessing increased reports on violence against women throughout the world due to the lockdowns, and women losing their livelihoods faster because they are more exposed to hard-hit economic sectors and make up the majority of the informal sector workers.  

Considering these complex global challenges, we commend the commitment and the leadership of the Government of China in advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment in the country. This commitment is reflected in the role that gender equality and women’s empowerment have in the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework recently signed by the Government of China.


The significant success that China has achieved on poverty alleviation has a multiplier effect on advancing women’s empowerment, including to address poverty. The Government’s goal of shared development, and its ambitious plan to achieve equalization in public and social service delivery are aimed at overcoming the remaining divides between different population groups, and the UN has supported the Government’s achievements through close collaboration for the promotion of a multidimensional approach to tackle poverty, which means going beyond income poverty and addressing deprivations in those non-monetary factors that contribute towards well-being; including access to quality education, health, nutrition, water, sanitation and health, social protection and social services. The progress on education for girls and access to sexual and reproductive health as well as social protection and assistance are critical enablers for creating a society that is fair and equal for men and women. China’s success in this regard is also notable.


However, it is also true that these gains are threatened by the global pandemic which can further push vulnerable Chinese women and men back into poverty. The impacts of the pandemic can exacerbate challenges in several areas including: equal pay for equal job and equal employment and promotion opportunities for decent work; the underrepresentation of women in senior leadership roles across sectors; the disproportionate share of unpaid care work which continues to be one of the main deterrents for women to enjoy decent work and leadership roles; and the continued concerns around safety and dignity of women at home and in workplaces.


We believe the 14th Five-year National Development Plan and the new 10-year Plan on Development of Women and Children which are underway, will present an excellent opportunity for China to ensure Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment are at the center of the development agenda, and to accelerate actions that address the remaining gaps and challenges. The world looks up to China for the progress on the SDGs, and the commitments in the Beijing Platform for Actions.


As the United Nations, we stand ready to support and continue to work with the Government of China and all national actors for our concerted efforts to fulfill the commitments made 25 years ago! As we recover from the global pandemic, we have an unprecedented opportunity to innovate and do things differently, for current and future generations of women and girls, and we count on China’s continued leadership and commitment for advancing women’s rights in all sectors and fronts.


I thank you once again for the opportunity to participate in this event and join hands with everyone to renew the commitments for equal rights, freedom, and opportunities for women everywhere.

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