On 20 September, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, took part the launch of the HeForShe campaign, a global solidarity movement for gender equality, designed to mobilise boys and men to struggle for the empowerment of girls and women.
The event was organised by UN Women, Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, co-hosted by UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson. Held the Trusteeship Council at the UN headquarters, before a packed audience, the event was moderated by Wolf Blitzer, journalist at CNN.
The Secretary-General reminded all that "human rights must be the same for men and women," calling for all men to "raise their voices not their hands."
Emma Watson said the HeForShe campaign seeks to include all boys and men in the struggle for human rights and gender equality -- "we need all boys and men to become advocates for change."
The challenges remain steep, she said, as "no one country in the world fully respects human rights" -in closing, Emma Watson reminded of their responsibility to act.
"If not me, who? If not now, when?"
The opening included statements from Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who spoke of the goals of HeForShe with a special focus on the role of media, the President of the UN General Assembly, HE Sam Kutesa and Kiefer Sutherland --as well as the Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi and Gary Barker.
Irina Bokova took part in the Leaders' Panel discussion, entitled “Understanding Gender Dimensions” with the goal to explore how the advancement of gender equality can unlock potential achieve the post 2015 development agenda. The panel included President Tarja Halonen and Executive Director of UNFPA, Babatunde Osotimehin.
“I see gender equality as the strategic human rights agenda for the 21st century," said the Director-General.
Irina Bokova reminded all that equality is not a numbers game and had to mean the same chances of learning, of benefiting from equitable treatment within schools.
She spoke of the crisis in education facing girls and women and the high price this places on all societies. This is why UNESCO is working across the world, she said, to frame strong national policies, to shape appropriate curricula, to train teachers, to support girls in getting to and staying in school, to promote women’s literacy in schools and outside, through community learning centres.
“Our focus falls on girls – it must also include boys, and it must work within community structures, to shape new social and cultural norms, to fight against violence and discrimination, to craft new forms of global citizenship – this is an objective of the Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative UNESCO is steering forward.”
The Director-General spoke of the need to alter prejudice and stereotypes through education, as the way to start changing behaviours and build more cohesive, inclusive societies.
"This is why I appeal to all to join this campaign, for solidarity, for human rights."
President Halonen spoke of her personal experience at the national level and stated that sustainable development would depend on the achievement of gender equality.
The event saw a wide range of statements from business leaders from all the world, pledging to advocate for gender inequality and the spirit of HeForShe.