Gender equality still ‘300 years away,’ UN chief warns


A woman walks up the decorated stairs of the Commerzbank in Frankfurt, Germany.
AP Photo/Michael ProbstA woman walks up the decorated stairs of the Commerzbank in Frankfurt, Germany.

‘Women’s rights are being abused, threatened, violated around the world,’ says Guterres, citing maternal mortality, girls ousted from school, and other crises

Global progress on women’s rights is “vanishing before our eyes,” UN chief Antonio Guterres warned Monday, claiming that the increasingly distant goal of gender equality would take another three centuries to achieve.

“Gender equality is growing more distant. On the current track, UN Women puts it 300 years away,” the United Nations secretary-general said in a General Assembly speech ahead of International Women’s Day on Wednesday.

“Women’s rights are being abused, threatened, and violated around the world,” he added, citing a litany of crises from maternal mortality to girls ousted from school, caregivers denied work, and children forced into early marriage.

“Progress won over decades is vanishing before our eyes,” Guterres said.

He highlighted the particularly dire conditions in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, where “women and girls have been erased from public life.” While he did not name other specific countries, Guterres stressed that “in many places, women’s sexual and reproductive rights are being rolled back (and) in some countries, girls going to school risk kidnapping and assault.”

Also left unmentioned was Iran, which was ousted late last year from the Commission on the Status of Women due to the country’s repression of the ongoing female-led revolt since last September.

Guterres called for “collective action” worldwide by governments, civil society, and the private sector to provide gender-responsive education, improve skills training, and invest more in “bridging the digital gender divide.”

“The patriarchy is fighting back. But so are we,” he added. “The United Nations stands with women and girls everywhere.”

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