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15 September, 2017

A moment for women participation

UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women on her visit to Ukraine

My short but meaningful stay in Ukraine has convinced me that I need to come back again, because there is so much excitement and so many things that we can and should be doing together. This visit gave me an opportunity to interact with the Government, Parliamentarians, partners, and women in civil society. We are fully behind the efforts of the Government to drive the change forward, to reduce the impact of the conflict, and to ensure that women are resilient and are able to stand on their own.

I have the first hand information from the women, both about the challenges they face and the determination they have to take their situation into their own hands. One of the most encouraging things about the women in Ukraine is that they have high level of education. This is already a strong advantage which we do not experience in other countries dealing with similar issues. I think for donors and investors to not take full use of this is to delay the transformation required by the country. Because if you invest in women you invest in a nation and a change that is sustainable and far-reaching. The longer we delay to invest in women, the longer we delay to get the change that we want.

In addition to that, the economic growth that is required by the country, inclusive growth which ensures that you change the lives of the next generation, can only be achieved if you invest in women. All the partners and donors who have not seen this as the most strategic intervention, must know that the clock is ticking against us. This is the best investment with the highest rates of return. And there is a lot of data to prove it.

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At the macro level, institutions with gender diverse leadership outperform their peers in terms of productivity and contribution to GDP. At the micro level, women reinvest their income in the best interest of their families. They use the resources they have to improve the health of the family members and to address their educational needs. It just comes naturally that women have the best potential to carry wealth into the next generation. When they have more economic means, they take care of wellbeing of their children so that they grow up more prosperous.

Canada and Sweden were among the first ones to support Ukraine on the way to gender equality. The CEDAW in Action Program funded by Canada will help Ukrainian women to better understand and protect their rights. Because when women understand their rights, i.e. the reproductive rights, the rights to education, the rights to political participation, they take charge and make change happen not just for themselves, but also for everybody. CEDAW is an iconic international instrument to look at ourselves and to share our successes with other nations.   

Sweden supports Ukraine through its Gender and Equality at the Center of Reforms Program. Reforms are a particular moment in the history of a nation, especially when there is a conflict. In a way it is a silver line in a cloud, when you are trying to address something which was otherwise a tragedy, you actually create an opportunity to move forward. We have seen this advantage of reforms bringing about far-reaching gender equality in Colombia. The peace process has created one of the most advanced reforms and benefits for gender equality that they could not have had if there was no conflict.

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Also, when women are involved in the peace process the quality of the peace is much better. The evidence of other countries shows that the conflict reignited much sooner, when the peace process was not inclusive. And when women participated in it, peace lasted longer. For instance, when discussing reparations, women will not just look at the reparations for combatants. They will look at the reparations that should go to the communities to rebuild the schools, clinics, roads. They will address the issues of those who did not fight but were affected by the conflict, including provision of psychosocial support. Gladly, a growing number of men start thinking like that, but this is because women have been consistently providing their leadership in this area.      

We did a study ourselves looking at the implementation of Resolution 1325 in after a period of 15 years and the key trend was that reforms are a pivotal moment to increase women political participation. You set targets for participation of women and women stand up and represent themselves. That is why you have seen higher number of women participating in politics in Afghanistan, notwithstanding many challenges that they do have in their country. It is hard to believe, but there is higher participation of women in Afghanistan than in the U.S.

I would also like to note the importance of ratifying the Istanbul Convention. We appreciate the changes that you have made, the laws that are in place, but it is also important to complete the picture. And it is important to set certain standards for yourself which you can compare with the standards that other people in similar position have set for themselves. It also helps fill in the gaps in the national legislation. So we look forward to support you as you ratify the Convention and to celebrate with you when it happens.

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