The United Nations must both be on the cutting edge of change and practice fully what it preaches when it comes to achieving gender equality and parity, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro told the Group on Equal Rights for Women in the UN (GERWUN).
“We cannot simply promote gender equality outside our walls, if we do not implement it inside them,” she said in remarks delivered yesterday at UN Headquarters.
“Indeed, it is a sad reality that a group such as yours is still needed as we continue to strive to ensure that gender equality is practiced and parity achieved within our Organization,” she added. “GERWUN’s very existence shows that there is still some work to do.”
She noted that despite the Organisation’s commitment, progress has been slow. “Some departments have made notable progress towards achieving gender parity. However let us be honest that, overall, the numbers are gloomy.”
A working mother herself, Ms. Migiro acknowledged that the modern workplace is a “testing and demanding” environment, and that combining a career with family life is difficult.
“I know that finding the right balance between professional advancement and motherhood, between work and life, is the toughest challenge we face, not least because we have to admit that we cannot achieve a perfect balance,” she stated.
Among other things, she pointed out that women tend to be under-represented in the more substantive fields such as political affairs and peacekeeping, “a fact often attributed to the stereotyping of women and their situations and capabilities.
“While this needs to be changed still, we must remain optimistic and note that the Secretary General is insisting on progress, and the issue is gaining momentum where it was lacking before,” she said.
The Deputy Secretary-General noted that an effective gender balance strategy requires strong commitment and leadership from the top, as well as information-sharing to ensure that managers and staff at all levels are made aware of the strategy and the actions expected from them.
“The Secretary-General is committed to ensuring this. All managers must get on board. All staff must play their role.”