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

Bern, 01.10.2020 - Message from the President of the Swiss Confederation Simonetta Sommaruga

(Translation of the speech given in French)

Mr President of the General Assembly,
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

The Beijing Declaration was a turning point in the history of women's rights. Because it established a visionary Platform for Action, addressing previously neglected issues such as violence against women or the recognition of unpaid work.

In Beijing, former Swiss minister Ruth Dreifuss stressed that nothing can be taken for granted when it comes to women's rights. Indeed, 25 years later, it must be admitted: the cause of women has not advanced as quickly as we would have liked.

The COVID-19 crisis has exposed once again existing inequalities, particularly between men and women. It is mostly women who are on the front line in hospitals and elderly care homes, it is mostly women in families who struggle between work and caring for children and grandparents, and yet it is usually men who are in charge.

In politics, too, men still dominate, even today. Widely.

This struck me during the general debate of the United Nations General Assembly: barely a dozen countries were represented by women. Out of 193 member states!

Even today, there are countries where women risk reprisals, and even their lives, because they stand up for their rights or express their opinions.

Even today, there are women who do not have the same rights as men, women who are sentenced to death for adultery, men who decide the fate of the women and girls in their families.

Even today, women are attacked, women are killed by men who are often their partner.
When I was young, I worked in a women's shelter. I learned there that the most dangerous place for women is not on the street, it is at home.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Switzerland has made progress:

It has ratified the Istanbul convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence; women will now be better protected.

Equal pay has improved although on average women still earn 8% less than men... because they are women;

Last year, hundreds of thousands of women – and men – demonstrated all over my country. The pressure from the street served as an accelerator for equality. It led to many women being elected to the Swiss parliament. They now represent 42% of the lower chamber.

Nevertheless, much more remains to be done. For example:

  • in unpaid care work
  • in combating violence

In foreign policy too, women's rights are a priority for Switzerland, as are peace and security. This is why Switzerland is strongly committed to the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325. This resolution highlights the impact of armed conflict on women and girls. It ensures protection for women in times of war as well as their participation in peace negotiations. So that women are not only victims of conflict but also peacemakers.

Ladies and gentlemen,

With its candidacy for the UN Security Council for 2023–24, Switzerland wants to strengthen its multilateral commitment to women, peace and security in the world.

25 years after the Beijing Declaration, let us now stay the course, let us pick up the pace!

Let us make equality a reality.


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