Presidential High Commissioner for Women’s Equality – Bogota, Columbia

Michelle Bachelet, and the Presidential High Commissioner for Women’s Equality

Good afternoon to you all.

I would like to commence by extending a warm thank you to you all for attending this press conference this afternoon, and for having continued to give such comprehensive and impartial press coverage to events that, whether directly or indirectly, relate to the human rights of women.

I would also like to thank President Santos for the invitation that he has so kindly extended to me to visit Colombia, and for the keen interest that he has demonstrated by participating in the launch of the National Public Policy Guidelines for Gender Equality for Women, a document that is of the utmost importance to all Colombians, irrespective of their gender.

This visit to Colombia marks my first visit to this country in my capacity of Executive Director of UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, which came into being in January 2011.

There can be little doubt about the fact that this is, indeed, a propitious moment to visit this remarkable country in view of the fact that Colombia is making significant strides in consolidating a climate of peace and thereby ensuring a nation that is more just and equitable for all of its citizens, whether women or men.

The signing of the “General Agreement for an End to Conflict” between the FARC guerrillas and the Colombian government, that President Santos signed on the 4th of September, is a key milestone on the path to guaranteeing civic security.

For the United Nations system in general, and for UN Women in particular, this keynote agreement that was forged between the signatories that I have mentioned, is certainly a step in the right direction, and one which guarantees the people of Colombia the due restoration of their legitimate right to go about the daily business of their lives in a state of peace.

To ensure that this peace is achieved, not only is dialogue needed, but also it is imperative that structural solutions are found for the country. Women should be involved at both the stages of conception and implementation of these solutions. It is essential that, in Colombia, more women participate in the processes of peace and security, while work continues to increase women’s participation and leadership in politics, to eradicate violence against women, to improve their economic empowerment, and to promote planning and budgeting that incorporate a gender perspective.

This afternoon I had the opportunity of engaging in high-level conversations with President Santos and a number of members of his governmental team with regard to the initiatives that Colombia is in the process of carrying out in this specific area.

And here let me mention once again the National Public Policy Guidelines for Gender Equality for Women, a highly significant initiative that mainstreams strategic actions and policies for guaranteeing women’s rights, drawing on the vital input of a considerable number of female Colombians, after an extensive regional and sectoral consultation process carried out between the Colombian government and a cluster of women’s organizations, and backed by the expertise of UN Women’s Technical Secretariat.

I also wish to draw attention here to the progress that has been made by Colombia by virtue of the recent introduction of a Law of Quotas that guarantees a minimal participation of 30 per cent of women in lists of candidates for elected office both at the national and regional levels of government. But let us not become complacent in this regard. Despite this sterling achievement, I spoke with President Santos about the overriding need to continue to foster the political participation of women with a view to achieving eventual parity in terms of representation.

At the same time, here at UN Women we consider it to be of the utmost importance, and this is particularly the case when we are discussing effective processes for ensuring peace, of continuing to work towards the incorporation of the gender perspective in processes of Truth, Justice and Reparation that are being carried out within the framework of the Law of Victims and the Restitution of Lands.

Let me add here that we at UN Women are keen to applaud the support given by the Colombian Government on September 7th to the UNiTE to end violence against women campaign of Ben Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations. Such endorsement of the Secretary General’s campaign shows the vital progress that has been made vis a vis the guaranteeing of the right of Colombian women to a life that is free of violence.

We know that this task is momentous, but we are highly confident that these efforts that are being deployed will have impacts that are substantive In terms of the development of Colombia, given that until the present time it has not only been women who have had to pay the price of gender-specific discrimination but, indeed, the whole of Colombian civil society which has suffered through not being in a position to harness the talent and potential of half of the population.

This exclusion has sapped the vitality of the quality of democracies, the strength of economies, the wellbeing of societies and the sustainability of peace in many countries throughout the world, and I am afraid to have to say that Colombia—to a greater or lesser extent—has not, in this regard, been immune to such an enfeeblement of its institutions.

Consequently today I want to set the seal on our recognition of the ground-breaking efforts being made by Colombia in order to achieve the full guarantee of the human rights of all women. And, in this connection, we would like to congratulate all those women who, whether working within social organizations, private enterprise, the mass media, regional government and central government are the veritable protagonists of this progress in view of their commitment, dedication, expertise and talent.

We are mindful, of course, that, as with all the countries in the world, there continues to exist a gamut of challenges and obstacles in terms of achieving gender equality. But we are convinced that Colombia is making progress at a steady rate and that it is indubitably on the right path towards achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Thank you so much.

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