Achieving women’s rights and gender equality is among the top priorities of the United Nations.  The 75th session of the UN General Assembly convened a high-level meeting on 1 October to mark the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women (also known as Beijing Women’s Conference), and the adoption of the  Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action with the theme, ‘Accelerating the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.” The Beijing conference, which drew women from across the globe, was a landmark event in the quest for gender equity and women’s rights.

In his opening remarks during the high-level meeting on 1 October, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, noted that though progress such as a reduction in maternal mortality by nearly 40% and more girls in school than ever before in history have been made, more needs to be done. He highlighted some of the issues still being faced by women and girls globally. These include:

  • Twelve million girls are married off before their 18th birthday every year.
  • High prevalence of femicide in some parts of the world; for example, in 2017, an average of 137 women around the world were killed by a member of their own family every day.
  • The exclusion of women from peace negotiations, climate talks, and decision-making roles of all kinds, at local, national and international levels.
  • Women on the average, have just 75 percent of the legal rights of men on a global level.
  • The World Bank estimates that it could take 150 years to achieve gender parity in lifetime earned income. And that closing that gap would generate $172 trillion in human capital wealth. That is what we are losing.

Mr. Guterres added that under his leadership, the UN has achieved gender parity in top positions of the organization.

Read more: High-level meeting on the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women:


6One of the ramifications of the lockdown policy imposed by many governments around the world to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus is an alarming increase in the number of domestic violence incidences. According to the United Nations (UN), reports from countries in every region suggest that restrictions in movement, social isolation, coupled with increased social and economic pressures are leading to an increase in violence in the home. In an interview with the UN News, the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, Ms. Anima Mohammed pointed out that when women and girls are ‘locked down’ in their homes with abusive partners, they are at much greater risk than ever before.” On 5 April, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, took to Twitter to call for peace in homes around the world. “Peace is not just the absence of war. Many women under lockdown for COVID-19 face violence where they should be safest – in their own homes,” Mr. Guterres tweeted. He then urged governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic.

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes violence against women and girls as a significant public health problem, as well as a fundamental violation of women’s human rights.

Read more: UN chief calls for domestic violence ‘ceasefire’ amid ‘horrifying global surge:



Violence against women and girls is among the oldest and the most wide-spread form of abuses in the history of humanity. Sadly, many instances of gender-based abuse go unreported for fear of reprisal, stigmatization or fear that the woman will be blamed, especially in cases of sexual harassment. To bring the issue of gender-based violence into the limelight, the UN commemorates November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The theme for the 2019 International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape.” As noted by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, “Sexual violence against women and girls is rooted in centuries of male domination. Let us not forget that the gender inequalities that fuel rape culture are essentially a question of power imbalances.” Sexual violence against women and children happens everywhere. Unfortunately, sometimes even in a place and among individuals with whom one should feel very safe, that is, in the home and among family. Also in conflict and war situations, both the state and non-state actors use rape as a weapon of war.

For the next two years, the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women Campaign will focus on the issue of rape as a specific form of harm committed against women and girls in times of peace or war. A world without violence is possible. Take action and join in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls.

Read more:

The UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka’s video message:




Girls from India, UNICEF Photo/Soumi Das

The United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 on December 19, 2011, designating October 11 as the  International Day of the Girl Child. The purpose is to focus attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights. The theme for the 2019 International Day of the Girl Child is, Girl Force: Unscripted and Unstoppable.” 

Nearly 25 years since the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women, which culminated in the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action (“the most comprehensive policy agenda for the empowerment of women”),  the fight for the empowerment of women and girls is far from being won. Women and girls in many parts of the world are still denied their fundamental human rights based on their gender. While among many cultures and some of the world’s major religious communities women and girls are not considered equal to their male counterparts.

As part of our advocacy efforts for gender equality, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur,


Girls from NDA, Hingham, MA  visit with Sr. Amarachi at SNDatUN Office

Loretto Community, Augustinians International and the Society of the Sacred Heart, led the Day 2 of 11 Days of Action twitter chat campaign to highlight what girls’ education for non-violence and gender equality means, in honor of the International Day of the Girl Child. Below are a few of the verified facts on violence against girls  that we twitted:

“Worldwide, up to 50% of sexual assaults are committed against GIRLS UNDER 16.”

“80% of the 2.5 million people trafficked annually are women and girls. They are trafficked into prostitution, forced labour, slavery, and servitude. Indigenous girls are disproportionately affected.”

“In countries affected by conflict, girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys and are more likely to become victims of sexual and gender-based violence.”

“Violence is gender-based and systemic. Girls suffer several injustices such as having to drop out of school, being forced into early marriages, and becoming pregnant while still a child.”





5By Ms. Salma Sahnoun: Intern, SNDatUN: I got very interested in an internship experience with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur after representing the organization at Harvard National Model United Nations in February 2019. It became evident to me that I share a common value on the importance of education, especially the education of women and girls with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. I am happy to have been accepted for a summer internship at the SNDatUN office in New York with Sister Grace.

I began my internship on May 13, 2019. During the first week, I attended a meeting of the NGO committee on Stop-Trafficking in Persons, where we listened to reports from some of the members on the just concluded UN Forum on Indigenous Peoples and another report from a research on the 2018 US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. We also watched a video clip on Nadia Murad and her attorney, Amal Clooney’s audience with the UN Security Council on ISIL war crimes against the Yazidi people. I also attended the meeting of the NGO Committee on Social Development, where the topic of discussion was on the issue of homelessness. I felt privileged to be part of this meeting because as I gathered from the discussions, this would be the first-time issues around homelessness will be the focus of deliberation in any UN Commissions. The NGO committee has begun to strategize for advocacy with the Member States during the forthcoming UN Commission on Social Development in February 2020. The group is also planning to organize a “sleepout campaign” on December 7, 2019, in New York City. The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness on the issue of homelessness.

My first week ended very well. I look forward to learning more from Sr. Grace, who is6 also teaching me the basics of social justice, especially from the African perspective. I think I will find this perspective very helpful since my studies are focused more on the Middle East. One of my wishes for this internship is to expand my knowledge of other regions of the world. The UN is the heart of global governance, and having the opportunity to be here will undoubtedly be a booster towards my studies, my personal and professional life. I meet people from different nationalities here at the UN every day. The encounter with such diversity of cultures will be one of my most cherished memories from the internship. I have so far discovered that it is just alright to speak with an accent at the UN.



1“Not until the half of our population represented by women and girls can live free of fear, violence, and insecurity, the world cannot pride itself on being fair and equal.” These were the words of the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, at an event to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This day is observed every year on November 25 to raise awareness on gender-based violence. The theme for the 2018 celebration is Orange the World: #HearMeToo. The color orange is used to draw global attention to the pandemic issue of violence against women, while the hashtag is encouraged to amplify the message of survivors and activists and to put them at the centre of the conversation.

Below are some alarming figures from the UN, highlighting the prevalence of violence against women and girls:

  • 1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most frequently by an intimate partner
  • Only 52% of women married or in a union freely make their own decisions about sexual relations, contraceptive use and health care
  • Worldwide, almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday; while 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM)
  • 1 in 2 women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family in 2012; while only 1 out of 20 men were killed under similar circumstances
  • 71% of all human trafficking victims worldwide are women and girls, and 3 out of 42 of these women and girls are sexually exploited
  • Violence against women is as serious a cause of death and incapacity among women of reproductive age as cancer, and a greater cause of ill health than traffic accidents and malaria combined.

Are you aware of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign which begins every year on 25th November and ends on 10th December (International Human Rights Day)? According to the UN Women, 16 Days of Activism is a time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world.  The theme of the 2018 campaign is “End Gender-Based Violence in the World of Work.”

What can you do from where you are to contribute to ending violence against women and girls?

Read more:

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women:

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women:



3International Day of the Girl is celebrated on 11th October every year. The aim is to empower girls and to highlight some of the challenges faced by girls around the world. Advocacy groups for the advancement of girls’ human rights under the auspices, Day of the Girl Summit, has in the past years organized 11 Days of Action (advocacy campaign) to highlight some of the challenges faced by girls and to promote girls’ human rights. The 11 Days of Action campaign begins on 1st October and culminates in the celebration of the International Day of the Girl. Different NGOs or coalition of NGOs choose to sponsor the event for each day of the campaign, focusing on a particular theme/s to promote girls’ empowerment. This year, SNDatUN co-sponsored the event of 2nd October, in collaboration with the Society of the Sacred Heart at the UN and Loretto at the UN. We hosted a twitter chat with a focus on; “The power of education for non-violence and gender equality.”

Below were some of the arguments we raised in our TWITTER CHAT:


International Day of the Girl, UN Photo

  • “Without an education, a girl has limited options, can be kept in a cycle of poverty and will struggle to earn an income.” ​
  • “We need educated girls to take future leadership in our social, political and economic spheres to achieve gender balance, to help bring new perspectives, and create new ”
  • “Only 22% of the world’s parliamentarians are women. We have 14 female heads of state in the world and women account for only 4.4% of Fortune 500 CEOs.”
  • “Educated women invest over 90% of their earnings back into their communities compared to only 40% of men.”
  • ‘Education has a central part to play in challenging the negative social norms that drive gender-based violence’
  • A culture of non-violence contributes keeps girls in school and greatly diminishes the chances of them being used as a weapon of war (raped) or trafficked as slaves to armed groups.
  • Girls continue to be one of the most discriminated against groups in the world simply because they are young and female. Worldwide, up to 50% of sexual assaults are committed against girls under 16.
  • A culture of non-violence helps girls to live with a sense of personal safety on the way to and from school, as well as in school.


Learn more:  

International Day of the Girl:

Day of the Girl Summit 2018: 11 Days of Action:  Students of Notre Dame Girls Academy, Amoyo, Nigeria, speak on Girls’ education:


1The United Nations General Assembly, in a resolution adopted on December 2011, declared October 11 of every year as the International Day of the Girl Child. The purpose of this day is to increase awareness and address the needs and challenges girls around the world face. It is also a day to specifically advocate for the empowerment of girls and the promotion of their human rights. Some of the challenges faced by girls around the world include a lack of access to quality education, gender-based discrimination, forced marriage, lack of quality healthcare, and numerous others.

 It is important that teachers and those who work with children, especially the girl child, familiarize themselves with some of the relevant UN human rights instruments in order to safeguard the rights of these children. Some pertinent mechanisms for reference in regards to the human rights of the girl child include the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Read more:

Convention on the Rights of the Child;

Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women;

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:


2 By Juliana Marquee Boyd, SNDatUN Intern: Millions of people around the world are trafficked and forced into servitude or into the sex trade by criminal gangs or individuals. Often described as a “modern form of slavery,” human trafficking thrives in many societies and generates astronomic profits for the criminals. According to the International Labor Organization, forced labor, one form of exploitation into which humans are trafficked, generates USD$150 billion revenue a year, while the Global Slavery Index suggests there may be as many as 45.8 million people enslaved. A very significant number of victims of human trafficking are women and children.

On June 21st, 2017, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), representatives of governments, specialists, survivors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) assembled at the United Nations (UN) to discuss strategies to combat and end human trafficking as well as to highlight the relevance of the Global Plan of Action and Sustainable Development Goals 5.2, 8.7, and 16.2. The Global Plan of Action (a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2010) is a framework that helps Member States in the fight against trafficking of persons. The document is reviewed every few years by the General Assembly. The second section of the Global Plan of Action will be reviewed in September 2017. The latter seeks to promote sustainable peace and prosperity worldwide.

Some of the trafficking issues highlighted during the session were the following: 3trafficking that thrives in societies with high levels of poverty, unemployment, lack of socioeconomic opportunities, cultural issues, gender-based discrimination, and in areas affected by conflict and war. Governments were challenged to prosecute sex buyers and provide assistance to trafficking survivors. The need to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, both in public and private spheres, was also highlighted. The session affirmed the significant commitment and achievement by the governments of Panama and Sweden in combating human trafficking by promoting the decriminalization of sex workers and the prosecution of sex buyers instead.

Speaking at the occasion, the Permanent Representative of Panama to the United Nations, Laura Flores noted that human trafficking happens in every country; crossing multiple borders in origin and destinations. For this reason, she emphasized the need for strengthening international cooperation to combat this societal menace.

The Global Slavery Index:

Global Plan of Action Report:

United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime:



International Women’s Day was commemorated on March 8, around the world. The theme for the 2017 celebration was “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.” In his speech to mark the event, the United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, noted, “leadership positions are still predominantly held by men.” He also remarked that “outdated attitudes and entrenched male chauvinism are widening the economic gender gap.” According to Mr. Guterres, “tradition, cultural values and religion are being misused to curtail women’s rights, to entrench sexism and defend misogynistic practices.” He again stressed that denying women and girls their rights “is not only wrong in itself; it has serious social and economic impacts that hold us all back.”

Also in her opening remarks at the Youth Forum of the 61st Commission on Status of

UN Woman

Photo:  UN Women/Joe Saade/Gaganjit Singh

Women (CSW 61), the deputy Secretary General of the UN, Ms. Amina Mohammed, thanked the young women for their enthusiasm and positive contributions to the society. She noted, “Every day and in every way, women must be celebrated as caregivers, mothers, business and political leaders, as agents of change, and as pioneers for equality.”                                                                                 

Ms. Mohammed further stressed, “where women and girls are held back or subjugated, the society suffers, when they advance, the society advances with them.”

More on:  Ms. Mohammed’s presentation click here.  Mr. Guterres’ remarks;