In the words of ...

This series features first-person articles written by celebrities, well-known personalities and women's rights activists on why we still need to push the Beijing agenda.

Fatou Bensouda – To temper war and conflict, empower women

Fatou Bensouda
Photo: Sikkenk

Fatou Bensouda of the Gambia was elected by consensus as the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in December 2011. She has received numerous accolades, including the International Jurists Award from the World Jurists’ Association, and was named among the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2012 and by Jeune Afrique as one of 50 African women who, by their actions and initiatives in their respective roles, advance the African continent (2014 & 2015). The former Head of the Legal Advisory Unit of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and former Deputy Prosecutor of the ICC, she has played a key role in many far-reaching international cases over the last three decades.

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Geena Davis – The time is now for media to make the future – on-screen and off-screen

Geena Davis
Photo courtesy of Geena Davis

Academy and Golden Globe Award-winning actor Geena Davis is a long-standing advocate for increased and diverse representation of women in film and within the entertainment industry. She is the Founder and Chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, working with media and entertainment companies through research, education, and advocacy programmes to improve how girls and women are portrayed on-screen. The Institute released the first-ever global study on female characters in popular films in 2014, with support from UN Women and the Rockefeller Foundation.

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Melinda Gates – Women’s Health is Everyone’s Health

Oped Melinda Gates
Photo: Gates Foundation

Melinda Gates is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Along with Bill Gates, she shapes and approves the Foundation’s strategies, reviews results, and sets the overall direction of the organization. Together, they meet with grantees and partners to further the Foundation’s goal of improving equity in the United States and around the world. They make many public appearances to advocate for the Foundation’s issues.

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Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka – It’s Time to Step It Up for Gender Equality

Oped EVAW Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
Photo: UN Women/Marco Grob

In this op-ed for International Women’s Day, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka takes a look at the mixed progress since the 1995 Beijing Conference and asks for bold steps to accelerate change in the lives of women and girls. She underlines the urgent need to recommit to the promises made in 1995 by world leaders, and an end point to achieving gender equality. Calling for substantial change, she stresses the need to frontload actions for the next five years to achieve full equality before 2030.

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Nicola Grinstead – Education needs to be reassessed, refocused and redefined

Oped photo Nicola Grinstead
Photo courtesy of World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts

Nicola Grinstead is Chair of the World Board of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, a global movement of 10 million girls and young women in 146 countries, dedicated to supporting girls and young women to reach their full potential. In this op-ed, she emphasizes the importance of life-long learning, non-formal and self-directed education and engaging girls and boys to eradicate gender-based violence.

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Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein – Stand in solidarity with courageous women’s human rights defenders

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
Photo: OHCHR

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein is the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and has extensive experience in international diplomacy and the protection of human rights. He was the first President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and the former President of the UN Security Council. In this op-ed , he discusses achievements and gaps in guaranteeing equal rights for all and stresses the importance and courage of women human rights defenders, and the challenges they face. OHCHR will begin a new campaign on Human Rights Day, 10 December, to galvanize recognition for human rights advocates.

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Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka – It's time to fulfil the promise to end violence against women

Oped EVAW Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
Photo: UN Women/Marco Grob

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has devoted her life to issues of human rights, equality and social justice and previously served as Deputy President of South Africa. In this message, she stresses that violence against women can and must end by addressing its root cause – gender inequality. She calls for greater mobilization to address the pandemic on many levels, from increasing access to services for survivors of violence to engaging all segments of society to shift cultural mindsets. This includes, for instance, getting men to stand up on the issue through UN Women’s #HeForShe campaign.

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Nicole Kidman – Play your part to end violence against women

Nicole Kidman
Photo: UN Women/Toby Morris

UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and Academy Award-winner Nicole Kidman raises awareness to end violence against women. With UN Women, she has travelled to countries, highlighting the challenges and solutions on the ground to end violence against women. She has worked to amplify the voices of women survivors, advocating not only for a stop to the pandemic of violence against women, but also for support services for survivors. Here, she urges members of society to play their part in ending this scourge that affects one in three women and girls globally.

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Professor Muhammad Yunus – Women at the centre of our economic activity


Professor Muhammad Yunus established the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh with the objective of helping poor people escape from poverty by providing loans without collateral to support income-generating activities. From Prof. Yunus's personal loan of small amounts of money in the mid-70s to destitute basket-weavers in Bangladesh, the Grameen Bank has advanced to the forefront of a burgeoning world movement toward eradicating poverty through microlending. Today it has 8.4 million borrowers of whom 97 per cent are women, and has lent over USD 8.4 billion with a near 100 per cent repayment rate. Prof. Yunus is the recipient of 112 awards, including, the World Food Prize, the Sydney Peace Prize, and the Seoul Peace Prize. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2009.

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Christine Lagarde – The 3 L’s of women’s empowerment

Christine Lagarde

A former French minister for various economic portfolios – including finance and employment, agriculture and fisheries, and trade – Christine Lagarde was the first woman to become finance minister of a G8 economy and is the first woman to head the International Monetary Fund (IMF). She calls for opening the door to women’s learning, labour and leadership in the economy.

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Nnenna Agba – For Nigerian girls, education is the key that opens doors to progress

In the words of Op-Ed Nnenna Agba

Raised in Nigeria, Nnenna Agba gained popularity when she went on the widely watched television show America’s Next Top Model. With hard-won scholarships, she graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry; she also holds a Master’s of Science degree in Urban Affairs. Nnenna is supporting the education of her four sisters in Nigeria, and is the face of Kechie’s Project, an NGO that provides scholarships to girls from Nigerian schools.

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Michelle Bachelet – Once we make this dream a reality…

Michelle Bachelet was sworn-in for a second term as President of Chile in March 2014. Previously, she was the first Executive Director of UN Women, from its inception in 2010 until March 2013. A longstanding women's rights advocate, she has promoted gender equality and empowerment of women throughout her distinguished political career, including as her country's first female President, between 2006 and 2010. In this editorial, she says nearly 20 years after the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, we must recognize significant progress, but challenges remain in terms of gender equality and equity.

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Gisele Bündchen – Women Breaking Barriers to Clean Energy

Fashion icon Gisele Bündchen @giseleofficial is a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Environment Programme. She has been dubbed the world’s ‘greenest’ celebrity. After a more than five-mile walk to gather firewood with women in Kenya, she speaks out about the need for modern energy to reduce women’s labour and reduce pollution.

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Parker Liautaud – The Gender Bias of Global Warming


Parker Liautaud is a polar explorer and climate change campaigner. In 2013, he completed the fastest human-powered trek from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole. He studies Geology & Geophysics at Yale University and is a Fellow at the Yale Climate & Energy Institute. He writes about the connections between human rights and women’s disproportionate vulnerability to climate change.

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Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (left), and Nigeria's Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development Hajiya Zainab Maina (right), with two young girls from the Federal Government Girls College (FGGC) in Abaji, Nigeria. Photo: UN Women/Mariam Kamara

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka recalls the 1995 World Conference in Beijing as a defining moment, and reiterates that “it is time for the world to come together again for women and girls and complete this journey”. In this piece ahead of the Beijing+20 campaign launch, she makes a rallying call to global citizens to picture a world where gender equality and women’s empowerment exist.

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