UNGA75: “Heads of State, we need you to pushback against the pushback”

Today, our Director Sascha Gabizon addressed the Heads of State during the opening of the United Nations General Assembly High-level Meeting on the 25th Anniversary of Beijing Women’s Conference. A historic gathering to call for political commitment at the highest levels for the achievement of gender equality focusing on “Accelerating the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.” The UN video of the opening is available here. Read the President’s summary to the General Assembly and watch Sascha’s speech below:


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Opening speech

UNGA High-level Meeting to Celebrate 25th Anniversary 
of Beijing Women’s Conference 
1 October 2020

Thank you, honourable Secretary General, delegates, feminists.  

I am Sascha Gabizon, director of  Women Engage for a Common Future. It is a great pleasure to address the General Assembly to celebrate the 25th birthday of the Beijing Platform for Action. Beijing, were I went, with the other 30,000 participants, has given us a historic commitment for gender equality and galvanised global feminist solidarity.  

But now, 25 years later, in many countries, instead of progress we see regress. Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights are under attack. We see women human rights defenders, indigenous women, women of colour, trans women, imprisoned, assassinated, being discriminated. 

We need you all to pushback against this pushback! 

Therefore, civil society feminists are supporting UN Women, with the Generation Equality campaign and Forums 

With the combined crises of armed conflicts, COVID19, the climate and environmental crisis, we need to stand up even stronger for women’s rights. 

Because, women in all their diversity, are at the frontlines fighting these multiple crises 

  • women are the majority of health sector workers,  
  • they are the majority of those who feed their families whilst 800 million people are sliding into extreme poverty and hunger, 
  • and women are the majority of those under attack from increased sexual and genderbased violence as a result the COVID-19 lockdowns.  

 The causes of this gender-based violence and discrimination are systemic, grown out of colonialism, slavery, patriarchal traditions that perpetuate violence against people of colour, Dalits, sex workers, people with disabilities, gender non-conforming persons, and upheld by exploitative economic structures and racist laws and institutions. 

Thanks to the tireless efforts of many feminists, we have seen progress, with the #MeToo campaign, and now with the new ILO Convention 190 on violence and harassment. We need all UN member states to ratify C190 now. 

And we wont let you off the hook on your past commitments either, we demand the implementation of CEDAW, the Istanbul Convention, the Agenda 2030 and its Goal nr 5 on gender equality. We need to get back on track.  

We, intersectional feminists, are insisting on structural transformation 

We need you to put your money where your mouth is. Already in Beijing we called to defund the military and to instead invest in health care, social protection and women’s rights 

We call on you to end sales of small arms, and to adhere to the Secretary General’s call for a global ceasefire. We need the women and men impacted by the conflicts in the UN Security Council, not the arms-exporting nations, that is clearly a conflict of interests. Some G20 countries are putting billions of COVID-19 funds into fossil fuels! The COVID-19 recovery funds should not worsen the climate crisis, nor armed conflicts 

We want to build better; we want to build forward. We call on you to divest from plastics, pesticides, minerals and nuclear industries. Instead we need a just transition for workers from these sectors. You need to invest in a gender-equitable and green transformation! 

We need debt cancellation, an equal share of COVID-19 vaccines for countries in the Global South. And we need a UN Tax Convention, to end the downward spiral of tax paradises, from which the 1% of billionaires profit, whilst 3,7 billion people suffer poverty. 

If you want to reverse this deepening trend of inequalities   

Lets not wait until the UN turns hundred. 

Feminists want system change now!