25 Years after Beijing: Intergenerational Dialogue on Gender Equality in Ethiopia

2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women’s rights.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to be here with you today to provide opening remarks to the conversation under the theme “25 Years after Beijing: Intergenerational Dialogue on Gender Equality in Ethiopia.”

This intergenerational dialogue that brings together prominent women rights activists including those who led the Ethiopian team to Beijing 25 years ago and young advocates is a perfect opportunity to see the progress achieved and the action needed to be taken to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment in Ethiopia.

This intergenerational dialogue is really important and timely. We need the inspiration for action from all generations in advancing gender equality and women empowerment.

We are not doing well, at all.

This dialogue also fits into the conversations launched by our UN Secretary-General to mark the UN 75th anniversary this year. Through @UN75, the United Nations encourages people to put their heads together to define how enhanced international cooperation can help realize a better world by 2045, the UN’s 100th birthday.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women’s rights. Since its adoption, there have been a few important gains. Globally:

  • 131 countries enacted 274 legal and regulatory reforms towards gender equality between 2008 and 2017.
  • More girls are in school than ever before and more countries have reached gender parity in educational enrolment.
  • The global maternal mortality ratio declined by 38 per cent from 2000 to 2017.

However, the progress has slowed to a standstill – and in some cases been reversed.

And some of this data speaks to itself:

  • Men still control more than three-quarters of seats in single or lower houses of parliament around the world.
  • Globally, women, aged 25-34, are 25 per cent more likely than men to live in extreme poverty (living on less than $1.90 a day).
  • Women on average do three times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men, with long-term consequences for their economic security.
  • Globally, 18 per cent of women experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner in the previous 12 months. In Ethiopia, 1 of every 4 women has survived domestic violence at some point in their lives, and 1 in every 10 has survived sexual violence.
  • And closer to home - In sub-Saharan Africa, four in five new HIV  infections among adolescents aged 15–19 years are in girls. Young women aged 15–24 years are twice as likely to be living with HIV than men


Ladies and Gentlemen,

In 2020, these statistics are not acceptable. There isn’t a single country in the world that has achieved gender equality!

The UN Secretary General said this last week – ‘everywhere you look, women and girls are worse off than men, simply because they are women and girls. A serious injustice

Women rights are human rights. Countries will not prosper until ‘half of the sky’ is part of the equation. There is evidence to suggest that unless we achieve full gender equality, sustainable development will not be met. And yet we have promises on development that need to be met by 2030,

The UN advocates for 4 areas in which achieving gender equality will transform countries and there are more. But briefly:

  1. Addressing conflict and violence. There is a straight line between violence, civil oppression and conflict. How a society treats the ‘half of the sky’ is a significant indicator of how it will treat others.  Conversely, involving women leaders and decision makers in mediation and peace processes leads to more lasting and sustainable peace. The UN is committed to advocating for putting women at the centre of conflict prevention, peace-making, peace building and mediation efforts. And continue supporting the development, implementation and adoption of regional and national policies and strategies in line with international standards to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls. Including addressing FGM
  2. Providing the space for women’s involvement in the climate crisis. Whether we want to understand it or not, the effects of much of what we are responding to that we describe as ‘humanitarian crises’ – have a disproportionate impact on women and girls. Drought and famine mean women work harder to find food and water, while floods and storms kills more women and girls than men and boys. Recent studies show that women economists and parliamentarians are more likely to support sustainable, inclusive policies.
  3. Advocating for building more inclusive economies. The gender pay gap globally is one reason why 70% of the world’s poor are women and girls. Women and girls do billions of unpaid care work around the world – someone mentioned to me 12 billion hours – every day – 3x more than men. It would be interesting to find out what that is for Ethiopia. You know that in some of the communities we come from, women can spend 14 hours a day cooking, cleaning, fetching wood and water and caring for children and the elderly. The typical economic models classify these hours as ‘leisure time’. There is nothing leisurely about this. But there is often zero value on that work done. But these flawed metrics distort policies and denies women opportunities. I know for sure that when women have an income, they are more likely to invest in their families and communities, strengthening economies and making them more resilient.
  4. Providing women and girls with equal access and continued access to primary and secondary education, health care and advocating for equal representation in political and economic decision-making processes. Women drive social progress and meaningful changes to people lives. We are more likely to advocate for investments in education and health and to improve institutions. Doubling the resources, capacities and expertise we put into decision-making benefits everyone.

The UN in Ethiopia is committed to advancing the gender equality and women’s empowerment agenda. It is part of our DNA. The equal-rights of women and men are included in the Charter – our founding document. As we mark our 25th anniversary of the Beijing Conference on Women, we are redoubling our efforts to support women’s rights across the board.

It is imperative that as we proceed into the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals – the blueprint for our partnership with the Government of Ethiopia to build a peaceful, prosperous and inclusive society on a healthy planet, that Gender Equality is central to that intention.

Finally, let me take this opportunity to reassure you that the UN will be a strong partner to support all stakeholders including the government and civil society to deliver on the full participation of women to lead the transformation of Ethiopia. 

I thank you!


Speech by
Dr. Catherine Sozi
Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator
Catherine Sozi
UN entities involved in this initiative
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women