National Dialogue: "Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world." Statement by Helena Fraser, UN Resident Coordinator

Welcome and a big thank you to today’s organizers: the National Gender Commission, UN agencies, EBRD and World Bank.

I’m glad to see many representatives of civil society have joined us today alongside women leaders. And very importantly, we also have male champions of gender equality such as Minister Shermatov, Minister Khusanov, and Deputy Minister Tashkulov here to share their perspective!

Today we celebrate the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and a more inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the opening of the Human Rights Council last week, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic has further entrenched discrimination against women and girls.

“The crisis has a woman’s face” he said, highlighting the burden shouldered by women frontline workers in health and education, as well as the sharp increase in violence against women and girls. Women have suffered higher job losses and been pushed into poverty in greater numbers.

Around the world, COVID-19 is unforgiving, and its impact risks reversing recent gains in gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Today’s event, is about acknowledging this risk, and joining hands here in Uzbekistan to minimize it.

That’s why a top priority for the UN Country Team in Uzbekistan is to work with government, Civil Society, and development partners to mitigate and minimize the negative impacts of the pandemic on the achievement of agreed gender targets.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Two and a half years ago, the government adopted 16 national sustainable development goals and 127 national targets to be achieved by 2030.

Importantly, under SDG 5 on Gender equality, Uzbekistan committed to:

  • End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere;
  • Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres;
  • Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels in public life;
  • Fully integrate the principles of gender equality in the process of adopting government programs.

Progress on all fronts has been significant, and yet much work remains. We must not let the pandemic reverse these gains.

I am proud that the UN Country Team in Uzbekistan has supported the development of the legal and policy framework to empower women and achieve gender equality – the draft National Gender Equality Strategy. We look forward to its adoption, along with a robust action plan and budget. This will provide a strong impetus to make measurable progress on national gender equality targets.

I also acknowledge the UN’s partnership with the National Gender Commission, to strengthen implementation of the new law on violence against women and girls, specifically aiming to improve the response to survivors of domestic violence. We helped develop national Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for such sectors as law enforcement, health, psychological and social support, including shelters and hotlines. This provides a good basis for further work to strengthen referral pathways and services for survivors. I also wholeheartedly welcome to Government’s interest to conduct a survey on prevalence of gender-based violence in society, to enhance evidence-based decision-making.  And I salute the dedication of civil society organizations at the front line of response, and of journalists & bloggers who shine a light on this phenomenon.  

Last week I had the pleasure to join the Central Asia subregional consultation for the Committee on the Status of Women (CSW), chaired by Mme Narbaeva. One of the main conclusions was that everyone suffers from women’s underrepresentation. Participation of women and girls in decision-making is vital for policies and budgets to effectively meet everyone’s needs, and more so in the wake of the pandemic.

Uzbekistan has made progress here also, increasing women’s representation in the legislatures and other sectors. Yet, progress will be faster if more leaders set and meet gender parity targets, including through appointments, for all executive positions at all levels of government. This can only benefit society at large. I am encouraged to hear about important progress in the Ministry of Public Education in this respect.

I also acknowledge the vital work in combating forced labour, which has had a significant positive effect on women in Uzbekistan, as women have been the greater share of cotton pickers.

To achieve sustainable impact, it’s vital to listen what women have to say. Increasing civic space and women’s organizations’ ability to register, advocate, receive funding and report on rights violations is key. And we need to expand our joint work to address and overcome existing discriminatory practices and out-dated societal norms.

The world we want is a world of equality in power and presence. To build that better world, women must stand alongside men at the centre of decision-making.

The UN Country Team is committed to work with all partners towards gender equality and women’s empowerment in everything we do.

Dear friends,

Over the past year, I have met so many courageous women across Uzbekistan: nurses and doctors, including at Yukori Chrichiq, journalists shining a light on the challenges of the most needy, women farmers keeping food flowing to markets, school teachers keeping the flame of education alive online or via TV, young volunteers distributing food and medicine.

Let us today salute the hundreds of thousands of these ordinary — yet extraordinary –  women across the country: health workers, carers, educators, entrepreneurs, social workers, bloggers, volunteers, who’ve worked tirelessly to protect and support the most vulnerable – the sick, the elderly, the marginalised, children, - throughout the past 12 months. 

The world we aspire to, is one where your voice is heard!

Thank you!

Speech by
Helena Fraser
Resident Coordinator
Helena Fraser
UN entities involved in this initiative
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
International Organization for Migration
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
United Nations Population Fund
United Nations Children’s Fund
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
World Health Organization
Other entities involved in this initiative
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
World Bank
World Bank