Security Council Reform Ambassador's Speeches

International Women\'s Day @ UN - Remarks by Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, Permanent Representative





President of the General Assembly Ambassador Peter Thomson
H.E. Ms. Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Chef de Cabinet,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to welcome you all to this event on the occasion of International Women's Day (IWD). Today's event aims to showcase how modernity and tradition can work hand in hand  to celebrate the contribution of women to our society.

We have with us Ms. Aishwaryaa Dhanush, a classical dancer, a film director,  a start up entrepreneur and UN Women's Advocate for Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in India. She intendsto share the message of gender equality and empowerment of women and girls in a unique way.  

Using the very traditional format of a classical Indian dance- Bharatanatyam, she intends convey a theme of our times - Gender Equality.   In this she follows a tradition that goes a long way.   Today's Google doodle features an Indian Bharatanatyam dancer Rukmini Devi Arundale as one 13 women who have made their mark in different ways. 

The idea of this event is to applaud achievements of both ordinary and extraordinary women and recognize the change they bring to society and in the making a better world with their actions.

While the celebrations of IWD dates back to over 100 years, the United Nations began celebrating the day during the International Women's year in 1975.  Despite progress made in improving the situation of women since then, challenges of globalization, digital innovation, structural barriers continue to impede efforts towards bridging the gender gap.

India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, once said underlining the importance of women in the society: 

'You can tell the condition of a society by looking at the status of women'

Here at the UN, we are all wedded to our collective faith in the equal rights of men and women. Yet as diplomats we haven't fared well. As an Indian it is a matter of pride that we contributed to an aspiration in 1955 when an Indian diplomat - Dr. Vijayalakshmi Pandit  was elected as the first woman President of the General Assembly. Since then only 2 more women have become PGAs.   So we still have some way to go.   However, in the present PGA Peter Thomson and the present Secretary General we have champions of gender equality who are acting in concrete ways to promote that ideal. 

Each of them in their own way, have put into action plans actively promoting the notion that a sustainable world will not be possible without social, economic and political empowerment of women. 

India's own historical traditions are replete with the reverence that women were held in as 'goddess' symbolizing the primordial cosmic energy and divine creative power known as ' Nari Shakti', as well as qualities of courage, determination, love, care, perseverance, empathy and sacrifice.  However, as a country with a population of more than 500 million women we are aware of the challenges we face. While gender equality and empowerment of women has been the cornerstone of our constitutional and legal framework and of proactive government policies since our independence, we have still some way to go.

It is this context that young women like Aishwaryaa Dhanush are playing a key role in.  We are increasingly a country of the young.   65% of our population is less than 35 years of age. The young are changing the narrative of our society and young women such as today's artiste lead the way. In this they have the support of the elders.  Indian society has a tradition of reverence for elders. So today we showcase that manifestation of a woman teacher Ms. Meenakshi Chittaranjan and her woman student Aishwaryaa. We are grateful that  Guru - Ms. Meenakshi Chittaranjan was able to come and be part of this event by her disciple demonstrating what an all woman partnership of wisdom and enthusiasm can do together.

The rest I will leave for the main actors so say and demonstrate by their words and deeds. I just want to thank you for joining in celebrating these outstanding women working in tandem to promote global goals of gender equality and women's empowerment.