Dear Ali Ahmadov, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan)
Dear Hijran Huseynova, (Chairperson of the Azerbaijan State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs)
My UN Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour for me to be here and to say a few words on behalf of the United Nations Country Team in Azerbaijan on this occasion marking the International Women’s Day.
I would like to thank the State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs for organizing this event and for inviting me to speak.
For last 108 years, International Women Day on March 8 has served as a powerful marker of countries’ progress towards gender equality.
This growing international campaign, which has been strengthened by four global United Nations women’s conferences, has also helped make the commemoration a rallying point to build support for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic arenas.
While remarkable progress has been made, the world is still far from where it should be in granting full rights of women. Shockingly, a recent World Bank study found, just six countries give women and men equal legal rights in areas that affect their work. This means the 187 other members of the UN have yet to reach that milestone of ensuring full equality of women and men in all aspects of a country’s, social, economic and political activities. Therefore, this is not just a poor or less-developed countries’ phenomenon.
In UN we understand, we have to do our share for equality and inclusion. Under the leadership and reforms initiated by our Secretary-General, António Guterres for the first time in UN history, the UN has the highest-ever numbers of women in senior management team and gender parity among those who lead UN teams around the world, namely UN Resident Coordinators. And there is a commitment to continue to build on this progress and achieve gender parity across the whole United Nations system within a decade.
International Women’s Day is also a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
And Azerbaijan’s history is full of such extraordinary women such as Leyla Mammadbayova, the first Azerbaijani female pilot, Shovkat Salimova, the first Azerbaijani female ship captain, Keisar Kashieva, the first Azerbaijani female artist, to name a few. Today, we witness the talent, courage, and dedication of more Azerbaijani women including H.E 1st Vice President Mehraban Aliyeva as role models.
I commend the government of Azerbaijan and the National Coordination Council for Sustainable Development for nationalizing all targets and indicators of SDG 5 – “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” This means Azerbaijan has taken full responsibility to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women and build a future of equality.
The UN in Azerbaijan and the State Committee for Women, Family, and Children Affairs have been working hand in hand for many years now to eliminate domestic violence, prevent early and forced marriages, abolish gender-selective abortions, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and women’s economic empowerment.
During the past 9 years, Azerbaijan has adopted legislation and policies to advance gender equality such as the Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence and amendments to the Criminal Code, Family Code and Civil Procedure Code.
And I am pleased to learn that after much delay the bill on the reproductive health will be discussed in the spring session of Milli Majlis this year.
But our job is not done until we can guarantee to every little girl in this country that her parents will not reject her for her gender even before she is born, and that she can lead a life of freedom and choice under the flag of Azerbaijan.
All girls need to know that society will defend their human rights, may it be on reproductive rights or property rights with the same conviction and vigor.
I can also think of some new areas of work that perhaps has not been paid as much attention, such as
- recognizing the value of unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies,
- ensuring women’s access to leadership at all levels of decision-making both in public and private sector.
- use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women.
UN Women has announced “think equal, build smart, innovate for change” as a theme of the 2019 International Women’s Day.
Innovative approaches that disrupt “business as usual” are central to removing structural barriers and ensuring that no woman and no girl is left behind. I would also like to call on industry leaders, game-changing start-ups, social entrepreneurs, gender equality activists, and women innovators in Azerbaijan to examine how innovation can remove barriers and accelerate progress for gender equality.
In conclusion, I would like to offer that the UN offices in Azerbaijan stand ready to work closely with the government of Azerbaijan, academia, NGOs, and businesses towards achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls in Azerbaijan.
Qizlar Bajarar (girls can!)