Statement of the UN Resident Coordinator at the International Women’s Day Celebration with Businesswomen Eswatini on Friday, 27th March 2021

In celebration of International Women's Day, the UN Resident Coordinator joined Business Eswatini and guests for a celebration of women making an impact.

Honourable Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs,

Distinguished host, President of Business Eswatini,

Distinguished Co-host, Businesswomen Eswatini Chairperson,

Excellency, Ambassador of the European Union,

Excellency, Ambassador of the United States of America,

Members of the diplomatic corps,

Honourable Cabinet members,

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

A very good morning to you all.

Belated Happy International Women’s Day! Today is about each and every one of you ladies: a moment in which we recognise and honour your everyday strength, courage and resilience.

It is humbling to stand before you today, my sisters and fellow warriors, and acknowledge with you how far we have come as individuals, mothers, daughters, wives, partners, leaders, and everything in-between. Collectively, we have endured one of the most turbulent times in history and emerged victorious, for we are here today.

I would like to take a moment, before we continue, to honour and remember the precious lives lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, those whose stories and impact will never be forgotten. Together, we celebrate the gift of their lives.

This Women’s Day, we celebrate the tremendous efforts made by women and girls in shaping a more equal future and highlight the significant role we play in striving for an equal future in a COVID-19 world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Women continue to be the backbone of the pandemic. Around the world, women truly have been warriors, as they fight on the frontlines of a fierce battle as healthcare workers and home caregivers. According to preliminary global studies, women account for over 70 percent of COVID-19 infections among healthcare workers, a testament of their share in the price paid to the pandemic by the l healthcare workforce.

In our beautiful continent, rural women in particular are bearing the brunt of COVID-19. In fact, it is estimated that the pandemic will likely push 47 million more women into poverty, reversing decades of progress. Nearly 60 percent of women work in the informal economy, an insecure labour market, and are therefore at greater risk of falling into poverty.

These are some of the statistics which demonstrate the challenges, courage and resilience of girls and women. All of you present today, your daughters, mothers and granddaughters, are pictures of this bravery and determination.

You continue to inspire me and us as you turn challenges into opportunities, and opportunities into success. Through the Vukani BoMake project in the Kingdom of Eswatini, the textiles industry has grown at an extraordinary pace,  fuelling the recovery better objective of our nation. It has been truly humbling to witness how the vision, the innovative thinking, the humanity and leadership of my sister, Make Tokki and other ladies present here today have helped to transform the lives of so many other women across this nation through manufacturing in the textiles industry and agri-business.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have witnessed the exceptional leadership of other brave and smart women in this Kingdom notably, the Honourable Minister of Health, the Minister of Education and Training, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, the Minister of Home Affairs and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, as well as Honourable female members of the Parliament and Her Excellencies the Ambassador of the European Union and the Ambassador of the United States of America; and Heads of UN agencies, to name only a few. Other women – wives, businesswomen, women farmers, teachers, big sisters, grandmothers and the alike - have led their families and their communities throughout the pandemic and have demonstrated incredible resilience in the face of the several adversities they have faced.

What a privilege it is to call you my sisters!

And what a pleasure to also recognize great men and brothers such as His Excellency the acting Prime Minister and our brother Nathi Dlamini for their tireless and unconditional support to women, their empowerment and gender equality.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The world needs to see more women in positions of leadership, as does this beautiful  nation. Women work not only to empower themselves, but their families, communities and future generations.We need women in senior leadership to bring women’s prospects for prosperity to the attention of decision-makers.

In 2018, the UN Human Development Report ranked Eswatini 137 out of 159 countries for gender inequality, for unemployment remains higher for young women than men, at 50 percent and 44 percent respectively. Along with high levels of gender-based violence, income inequality affects more women and girls and, in turn, their standard of living.

In 2018, only 23 percent of judges worldwide were women and in 2013, only 12.7 percent of Parliament seats were held by women. Who will fight for our daughters and granddaughters? We will and we are.

The great fight for equality is evident in the work of the Vukani BoMake Project, which continues to make an exceptional impact on the journey towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, recognising the fundamental value of leaving no one behind. The strides taken by the project towards reaching SDGs 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 13 and 17 are not to be underestimated, especially at a time such as this one, in which we endeavour to recover better from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The United Nations’ response to COVID-19 is founded on the principles of protecting the people and the planet, preserving the gains of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and achieving Agenda 2030.

Central to the UN responses are increasing solidarity; ensuring equality; promoting transparency, accountability and collaboration; and placing the voices and rights of the people  and civil society organizations at the centre of the response.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure, on behalf of the United Nations Development System in Eswatini, to hand-over a UN contribution towards Vukani BoMake’s significant efforts in creating a better and more sustainable future for all and in achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world This container and the next ones to come will enable talented women to manufacture reusable grocery bags, a critical step towards achieving several SDGs and a true representation of the United Nations’ valued partnership with the Vukani BoMake Project and wonderful women of our Kingdom.

Strong partnerships are essential in our efforts to create an equal future for all, as the great African proverb states: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This proverb is exemplified in the presence today and partnerships of the Honourable Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, the private sector, NGOs, and development partners.

As I close these remarks, I would like to congratulate His Majesty and his Government for their solid and impactful leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in Eswatini, and  the private sector for its crucial support to development initiatives in Eswatini, extending to key areas such as women empowerment, decent work, quality education, water and sanitation, and renewable energy.

It is in solidarity that we will emerge from the pandemic stronger than before. We need local solutions to local problems, and partnerships that will springboard Eswatini into a prosperous future. It is evident that you, indeed, are the solution.

Happy International Women’s Day to you all! I thank you.

Speech by
Author
Nathalie Ndongo-Seh
Resident Coordinator
RCO
Nathalie Ndongo-Seh
UN entities involved in this initiative
RCO
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office