Mlambo-Ngcuka: Important to accelerate the pace of change to achieve full rights for women
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FORMER South African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka’s time as the executive director of the United Nations Women and under secretary-general of the UN is coming to an end in three weeks time.
Following eight years at the United Nations, South Africa’s first female deputy president says there is still a lot of work to be done in ensuring the full empowerment, emancipation and recognition of women’s rights across the world.
“We changed a lot of laws in order to make sure the women of the world live in countries where their rights are recognised and realised , but not everywhere do women get to live their full rights. Between 2018 to this year we changed 700 laws and we still have a long way to go.
“I would like the momentum to stay on and to move on. We helped countries to change 35 constitutions that discriminated and we also made sure that while we are changing the laws, we are changing the norms because you can change the laws, but the norms if they don’t change you don’t actually feel and see the change,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said.
In their efforts to change laws, she said they had also had to work with traditional leaders in Africa which led to the formation of strong all African traditional leader organisations which was now making by-laws in their communities to end things such as child marriage, forced genital mutilation, to end violence against women and to force parents to keep children at school.
“We have worked in the private sector on the other end and formed an ’unstereotype’ alliance of all the marketers and advertisers in the world, every top respectable advertising company is part of this alliance and what they are doing is not to use stereotype adverts,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said.
She added that one of their main focuses had been to extend the support for gender equality under the UN’s Generation Equality campaign stating that having only governments and civil society backing the campaign was a narrow base.
“We wanted to increase investments into the women's agenda, which is when I had a budget of about a quarter of a billion and now we have been able to get support that is 40 billion, which doesn’t come to us necessarily, it goes to member states, civil society and other actors.
“It was important to accelerate the pace of change because change was too slow and bringing these together, bringing them with the money and their commitment has been good for us,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said.