Address by Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nation, Assistant Administrator of UNDP, at the 5th Ukrainian Women's Congress, 15 September 2021

September 15, 2021

Ms. Mirjana Spoljaric Egger

Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nation Assistant Administrator of UNDP, and Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS

Excellencies, distinguished guests and colleagues,

I have the privilege of addressing you here today at the opening of Fifth Ukrainian Women’s Congress. It is inspiring to know that so many successful women and men out here today committed to raising awareness of and action for women’s leadership.

UNDP has been a proud partner of the Ukrainian Women's Congress since 2019. And we will continue to do so until SDG5 is achieved and all women and girls in Ukraine are fully empowered.

According to the World’s Economic Forum’s 2021 Gender Gap Report, at the current rate of progress it will take almost 145 years to close the gender gap in political empowerment and the staggering 267 years to achieve full economic equality. But the key element here is at the current rate of progress, because we can accelerate change and can transform the status quo.

Back in 2019 when I visited Ukraine I participated in gender equality talks with many women leaders we discussed various opportunities for women’s participation in policy and decision-making ahead of the 2020 local elections. And now I’m happy to see that Ukraine has made great strides in promoting women’s leadership. It is especially encouraging that public perceptions of women leaders and gender equality are changing in Ukraine.

Recent UNDP research shows that the majority of Ukrainians disagree that men make better political leaders than women. An overwhelming majority of Ukrainians agree that the person should not be discriminated against based on gender. Another UNDP study revealed that women now hold 40.5 percent of leadership positions in the private sector. While still not parity, this figure is higher than the global average of 29% and higher than the average in the European Union in which currently stands at 30%. There are more women in Ukrainian politics today than ever before.

Over the past 30 years since Ukraine’s Independence, there have been 9 parliamentary elections. And during these elections, women’s representation increased sevenfold. However, the country is still below the world’s and also Europe’s average. Now to address this imbalance, UNDP advocated for gender quotas in Ukrainian elections. So, we are happy to see that the new Election Code contains a 40 percent gender quota requirement.

Promoting gender equality through quotas and other measures should be a top priority for local and central governments not just for economic and moral reasons, but because doing so makes countries one step closer to leaving no one behind.

People seem happiest in countries that rank high in gender equality. And why do I say so? Because the same countries that rank high in the recent World Happiness Report also score well in UNDP Gender Inequality Index and Human Development Index. 

Now in closing, I would like to wish you productive sessions as you debate one of the most important issues confronting humanity. Achieving the vision of gender equality requires the full and active participation of all of us, not just some of us and not just the women. Gender equality is an issue for men and for women.

I wish you a successful conference and thank you for your attention!