COVID-19 recovery plans must boost women’s role as “proven road” to sustainable development gains, Deputy Secretary-General tells Gender Equality Conference

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Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed’s video message on the occasion of the Kwara State Gender Equality Conference: “Galvanizing the will to take action on gender equality and women’s empowerment”, today:

I am pleased to share a message with you today as we mark 60 years of Nigeria’s independence. It is fitting that Kwara State has chosen to commemorate this occasion by inaugurating the first annual conference on gender equality. I commend His Excellency, my brother Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, for his trailblazing efforts in appointing a gender parity cabinet. This is significant to deepening democracy and setting an example for the rest of Nigeria, and indeed the world.

Women’s equal representation is not just a right in itself. It is a proven road to sustainable development gains. There is ample global evidence that when women are in power, their governance supports the well‑being of entire populations, in line with the values of fairness, equality, peace and human rights.

This has become abundantly clear as we have faced the COVID‑19 crisis. Women across the globe are rising for all. And as the example of Kwara State shows, there is no shortage of capable and talented women leaders, like Gbemisola Saraki, who currently serves as the Honorable Minister for Transport; Sarah Jubril, who has contributed to Nigeria’s political development; and Joana Nnazua Kolo, youngest serving commissioner in Kwara State. Going forward, we must expand efforts to provide equal opportunity and equal space for women at decision‑making tables.

As we focus on recovering from this global crisis, and strive to build resilient and inclusive societies, women’s equal participation in all spheres of life must be a priority. This includes targeted investments in supporting women‑owned businesses and harnessing women’s capacity in building sustainable green economies, women in politics, in the banking sector, and strengthening public institutions. In the private sector, we urgently need to address the barriers that hinder women’s progression into the executive level including unequal pay, workplace discrimination and harassment. We must continue to ensure that our health systems are adequately funded to ensure that the women seeking health services and those who make up the majority of front‑line workers have their health and livelihoods protected.

These investments must be backed by gender‑responsive budgeting and robust gender‑sensitive policies that mandate women’s equal and fair participation in society. This is the only way we can ensure the integrity of our institutions and democracy.

It has been 25 years since Nigerian women joined other women delegates in Beijing to demand gender equality. We must be ready to support the next generation of young women and girls in the areas of education and entrepreneurship.

Educated and financially independent women make for stronger, more resilient communities. This is especially important as we look to bolster the economy in the post‑COVID‑19 recovery process. Kwara’s young women are innovating everything from technology hubs and cosmetic brands to catering businesses and social enterprises. They are today and tomorrow’s leaders. I urge all of us to stand behind them in realizing their potential free from fear of violence, and with full confidence in their abilities.

The United Nations is committed to supporting the efforts of Nigeria in this regard. In that spirit of partnership, I wish you successful deliberations today and send special greetings to all my mothers, daughters, sisters of Kwara State. Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.