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Director-General's remarks at the Opening of the Asian Women's Forum

Tatiana Valovaya


Opening of the Asian Women’s Forum “Regional approach to expanding the economic, social and political rights and opportunities of women”

Monday, 13 May 2024, at 10:30 

Samarkand, Uzbekistan



Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

Let me begin by thanking the President and Government of Uzbekistan and UN Women for organizing this important and truly inclusive Forum. I also wish to extend my sincere thanks to Ms. Tanzila Narbaeva, Chairperson of the Senate of Oliy Majlis, for her personal longstanding contribution to promoting gender agenda in Uzbekistan and worldwide.

As was underscored at the SDG Summit last year, gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but also a catalyst for the sustainable development in all its dimensions. 

Numerous studies show that achieving lasting peace is only possible when women and men are equally represented in peace processes.  Therefore, gender equality in diplomacy is not just a matter of justice; it leads to more comprehensive and sustainable peace agreements. 

Gender equality can also be an important driver of economic growth and sustainable development, meaning that when women are empowered through access to education, employment and resources, entire economies thrive. According to the World Bank, long-run GDP per capita would be almost 20% higher if gender employment gaps were closed. Investing in women's economic empowerment is not just the right thing to do; it is a smart economic strategy.

Moreover, gender equality is critical for addressing the world’s intertwined global crises. From climate change and food insecurity to growing digital divide, women and girls are often disproportionately affected. Their voices and perspectives are crucial in shaping effective responses and resilience-building strategies.

However, the world is failing women and girls. Deeply rooted discrimination against women and girls persists, leading to structural inequalities, especially in the areas of political participation, economic empowerment and legal protection.

As the UN report The Gender Snapshot 2023 reveals, at the current rate of development, achieving full gender equality could now take nearly 300 years. 

This report is worrisome and paints a grim picture of where we stand now: No country is within reach of eradicating domestic violence. The labour and earnings gap remains persistently high: For each dollar men earn in labour income globally, women earn only 51 cents. The number of women and girls in conflict-affected contexts reached 614 million in 2022, which is 50 per cent higher than the number in 2017.

It is self-evident that to reverse the trend and put SDG 5 back on track, we need to act now. And by “we” I mean all stakeholders which are making our multilateral system truly networked, inclusive and ultimately effective.  

This Forum presents an important opportunity to discuss the gender agenda in a holistic manner so that all stakeholders be part of the global efforts to address persistent gender inequalities in various spheres. This is particularly relevant in the lead up to the Summit of the Future with is designed to centrally place gender equality across all chapters of the Pact for the Future.


Ladies and gentlemen, 

Changing patriarchal mindset is key to achieving gender equality. It cannot happen overnight. However, history teaches us that it is feasible. The world of international politics had long been an exclusive area of male dominance. However, in the 20th century, we had witnessed a gradual evolution of the gender perspective: if at previous times women were rather permitted to participate in the political life both at domestic and international levels, today we hear more and more often about the necessity to include women in the political decision- making process.

At the time when the United Nations was created 78 years ago, the topic of gender equality in international politics was quite marginal. The presence of both genders at the negotiating table was rare. In 1945, only 4 out of 850 delegates at the San Francisco Conference were women, and a woman Head of State or Government was unheard of. In 2024, there are 26 countries where 28 women serve as Heads of State and/or Government. The world of diplomacy is also witnessing quite an impressive mindset change: the number of women becoming Heads of Permanent Missions to the UN Offices in various duty stations is constantly on the rise. Within the UN, the number of women and men serving as Heads and Deputy Heads of Mission is almost equal. 

It is in our power to challenge the deep-rooted gender stereotypes and make women in power a new norm. Today, let us reaffirm our commitment to gender equality not just as a distant aspiration, but as a concrete and urgent priority, for building a more peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world for all.

Thank you for your attention.



This speech is part of a curated selection from various official events and is posted as prepared.