UN Women Decry Gender Gap at UNGA – Hail EJS, Angie Brooks as Pacesetters

The United Nations specialized agency that addresses women issues globally, the UN Women, says while the United Nations General Assembly has been the setting for several historic moments for gender equality, much is still to be achieved regarding women’s representation and participation.

To coincide with 76th UNGA session (14-28 September, 2021), a special report from the UN Women highlighting landmark achievements of women at the apex assembly of world leaders despite the disparity in gender representation and participation in decision making, stated that just four women have been elected President of UNGA in its 76 years and only 24 of the 193 members states represented currently have a woman Head of State or Government. It further stated that the United Nations has never had a woman Secretary General.

In celebrating women who have set records at UNGA, the report named Former President, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as the first African Woman to address the General Assembly. Madam Sirleaf who led Liberia from 2006 to 2018 has the enviable record of being the first African woman to be democratically elected as President of a sovereign African state. The report also named a former Liberian lawyer and then Assistant Secretary of State, Madam Angie E. Brooks as the first African Woman to be elected as President of the General Assembly and the second woman to do so on a global scene. She served in the position at the 24th edition of UNGA in 1969. Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit from India became the first woman ever to be elected President of the General Assembly in 1948.

The report further stated that there were only eight women among the 800 delegates who were present for the signing of the UN Charter, the founding document of the organization. One of these women was Australian delegate Jessie Street who ensured that respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction included sex, as well as race, language, or religion.

“Of the 160 signatories, only four were women—Minerva Bernardino (Dominican Republic), Virginia Gildersleeve (United States), Bertha Lutz (Brazil), and Wu Yi-fang (China)—but they succeeded in inscribing women’s rights in the Charter of the United Nations, which became the first international agreement to proclaim the equal rights of men and women as part of fundamental human rights”, the report stated.

Juxtaposing gender issues with the theme of UNGA 76, “Building resilience through hope – to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainability, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people, and revitalize the United Nations”, the UN Women said in the report that because the impacts of crises are never gender-neutral, and COVID-19 is no exception, member states must act deliberately to counter the disproportionate effects of the pandemic for women as they consider how to recover and build resilience from COVID-19.

On the sidelines of UNGA 76, the UN Women is launching a Feminist Plan for Sustainability and Social Justice, outlining how to use the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis to shape a better, more gender equal and sustainable world.

“As COVID-19 continues to disrupt lives and economies around the world, it is critical to include women’s voices and leadership in all efforts to build back better, restore balance with nature, tackle the climate emergency, and get ahead of the pollution crisis, while ensuring no one is left behind. This year must be the beginning of new and accelerated action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 5 on gender equality”, the report said.


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