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Remarks by Under-Secretary-General of the UN and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at the CSW62

Firstly, I want to congratulate and thank everybody for their excellent work and the progress that we have begun to make in this area. We are not there yet but I have to say it is very encouraging to see the partnerships that are emerging.

UN Women has followed in the footsteps of UNICEF and UNFPA who have together been the pathfinders within the UN system for this work. Goal 5, which we all fought for in order to ensure that it includes the end of these harmful practices, has created the momentum for us that was much needed. And because UN Women has a bigger responsibility for ensuring that everybody works on implementing what is reflected in Goal 5, we have given significant attention to both FGM and ending child marriage.

We are part of Phase 2 that is led by UNICEF and UNFPA. We have extended partnerships to men and boys through our HeForShe campaign, encouraging men and boys who are fighting for gender equality to also lead in this area in their own right. It takes a man and a boy and a father and a brother to say: not my sister; not my child, not my cousin, so that this is not a fight that only the girls are waging.

The President of Malawi is one of our HeForShe IMPACT Champions, who is leading from the front. We have also been encouraged by the leadership of First Ladies, not the least the First Lady of Burkina Faso, who has helped make it easy for us to have this conversation with Heads of States.

We have partnered with the African Union and continue to look for new ways to partner, including in the compilation of data. This is one of our core responsibilities. We are also hoping that in working with the African Union’s Goodwill Ambassador on Ending Child Marriage in ten countries, we will be able to expand and intensify our work.

We are glad that this partnership also brings in the European Union, through the Spotlight Initiative, which I am sure we will hear about from the EU representative, who is here today. Spotlight includes ending harmful practices in Africa as one of the areas that the Initiative is focusing on, in particular, in Africa.

We have also been focusing as UN Women on norms and stereotypes that are harmful to women and girls; in that case, working with traditional leaders. In Malawi—one of the Chiefs has already annulled some 850 marriages following the passing of the law, making the law apply retrospectively. This is a model that we are hoping to share with many other traditional leaders where the laws have been passed. In Sierra Leone, in the Yoni Chiefdom, the women organized themselves and reached out to us as they say no to both FGM and child marriage. We are glad to have an opportunity to collaborate with them in this.

And of course, we have also looked for collaboration with the media. The Guardian is one of the organizations that we have collaborated with. Through them, we have been able to form a good relationship with Jaha Dukureh, a young woman from The Gambia who you will hear from. She is now UN Women’s Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Africa on ending child marriage and FGM.

Jaha is a child of both UN Women and UNFPA; UNFPA invested a lot in nurturing Jaha to her current stature, and we have been glad as UN Women also to have the opportunity to work with her. Even more, interestingly, Jaha has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. And if that happensUNICEF, UNFPA—for all of us, this I hope will propel our work to even greater heights.

These are the different dots that we are connecting at UN Women in this work. We hope that when we collate the data to track what difference we have made, we will be able to see how these partnerships are creating the progress we want.

I have to say, for me, ending child marriage and FGM in Africa right now is our “MeToo” movement—just because of the number of people that are coming on board. AU is saying “MeToo”. The Member States are saying “MeToo”. The girls themselves are saying “Me Too”. The EU is saying “MeToo”. Friends of these different countries that are donors and partners are also saying “MeToo”. It is the biggest “MeToo” movement for Africa.

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