This year’s theme to mark International Women’s Day, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”, celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is also aligned with the priority theme of the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, “Women in public life, equal participation in decision making”, and the flagship Generation Equality campaign, which calls for women’s right to decision-making in all areas of life, equal pay, equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, an end all forms of violence against women and girls, and health-care services that respond to their needs.

Women stand at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, as health care workers, caregivers, innovators, community organizers and as some of the most exemplary and effective national leaders in combating the pandemic. The crisis has highlighted both the centrality of their contributions and the disproportionate burdens that women carry.

  • Nearly 60% of women around the world work in the informal economy, earning less, saving less, and at greater risk of falling into poverty.
  • Women earn 23% less than men globally.
  • Women occupy only 24% of parliamentary seats worldwide
  • 1 in 3 have experienced physical or sexual violence and 200 M of girls-women have suffered genital mutilation.

I also wish to highlight that we had many Women leaders across history who opened the doors for more women’s equality, yet still a long way. I recall Jessy Astrait (Australia) the first woman to participate in the United Nations Establishment conference in 1945 and she was behind the formulation of article 8 of the United Nations Charter that gave women equal access to United Nations positions as men. We are seeing it ourselves at the United Nations, where I am proud that we have achieved gender parity in UN leadership posts for the first time in history. Also at the Resident Coordinator Office, we are 60% females, 40% males.

In Kuwait, Mariam Al-Saleh established in 1937, the first school for girl’s education and we remember the first seminar in Kuwait calling for Women’s Rights was held in November 1953.

Across all sectors, communities, and societies, women have key contributions to make to leadership. From politics and corporations to sports and STEM, diverse leadership benefits everyone. Leaders need to represent the people they serve to best understand their wants and needs. This year’s International Women’s Day highlights the transformative power of women’s equal participation. The evidence is clear. When women lead in government, we see bigger investments in social protection and greater inroads against poverty. When women are in parliament, countries adopt more stringent climate change policies. When women are at the peace table, agreements are more enduring. And with women now serving in equal numbers at the top leadership posts at the United Nations, we are seeing even more concerted action to secure peace, sustainable development, and human rights.

The United Nations in the State of Kuwait this year is collaborating with partners from all sectors to mark this important day:

  • Webinar on “Achieving women’s self-empowerment for a better Arab world” Organized by Intisar Foundation and in collaboration with the US and French embassies and ICRC.
  • “Generation Equality: now” in coordination with the Women Cultural Social Society collaboration with the French and Mexican embassies in Kuwait as part of a series of activities leading to the Generation Equality Forum in June.
  • The International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Migration Agency in Kuwait, in cooperation with the Public Authority for Manpower (PAM), launched a series of psychosocial support workshops through the month of March for women residing in the government of Kuwait’s shelter for female foreign workers. This activity falls under IOM and Ooredoo’s joint agreement under the MyOoredoo application which allows customers and members of the ‘Nojoom’ program to donate their points to IOM to support community cohesion activities and support migrant workers. In addition to the series of psychosocial workshops and in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, IOM also provided 200 Personal Hygiene & Protective kits to around 100 women residing in the shelter as a preventive measure against the virus.
  • A zoom webinar to “Ring the Bell” for gender equality and women’s empowerment, is hosted by Boursa Kuwait and organized in partnership with the General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development, Kuwait University, UNWormen, and UNDP. Stock Exchanges around the world are participating in this global event on gender equality by hosting a bell ceremony to help raise awareness for women’s economic empowerment. The event will bring attention to the pivotal role the private sector can play in advancing gender equality to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and raising awareness about the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs). In the context of the Kuwait SDG 5 program, Representatives of the Kuwait private sector will share experiences of their engagement on the WEPs and actions they are taking to increase women’s participation and leadership in the workplace, marketplace, and community, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 recovery.

The United Nations has several successful practices and experiences in south-south cooperation working with community leaders, parliamentarians, and their committees to advance gender equality and women’s expanded leadership roles. Strengthening women’s specialized councils and developing gender equality and accessibility strategies and policies are embedded in countries’ commitment to Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals.

As we recover from the pandemic, support and stimulus packages must target women and girls specifically, including through investments in women-owned businesses and the care economy. Pandemic recovery is our chance to leave behind generations of exclusion and inequalities.

Whether running a government entity, a business, or a popular movement, women are making contributions that are delivering for all and driving progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
It is time to and builds an equal future. This is everyone’s job – and for the benefit of everyone.

Dr. Tarek El-Sheikh, Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Resident Coordinator to the State of Kuwait

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