Remarks by Dr Coumba Mar Gadio, UN Resident Coordinator on International Women's Day

The global theme for 2020 International Women's Day is: “I am generation equality: realizing women’s rights”; but what does it mean for us in Zambia?

Your Excellency, Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia,

Hon Elizabeth Phiri, Minister of Gender

All Cabinet Ministers and Permanent Secretaries present

Members of Parliament

Ambassadors and High Commissioners

Representatives from Civil Society

Our dearest women and girls from all walks of life

Members of the press

Ladies and gentlemen

I am delighted to be here today representing the United Nations in Zambia; and also speaking on my own behalf as one among millions of women who make up the under-represented 50% of our society. 

Despite significant progress made towards realizing women’s rights both globally and in Zambia, many women and girls still face significant unfulfilled rights and discrimination. 

The global theme for 2020 International Women's Day is: “I am generation equality: realizing women’s rights”; but what does it mean for us in Zambia? Equality essentially means ensuring equal opportunities and a level playing field for women and men.

I would like to commend the Government of the Republic of Zambia through H.E President Edgar Lungu for advancing gender equality in the country as demonstrated through the progressive 7th National Development Plan, which include targets for achieving gender equality. In his capacity, our President is the “HeForShe” champion and the African Union Champion for Ending Child Marriage.


Ladies and gentlemen,

The year 2020 is an important year for achieving gender-equality, as we have commenced the Decade of Action for achieving the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which all 193 Member States in the world signed up to including SDG 5: "to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls".

However, there has been slow progress towards gender equality.

Why is there still so much sexual and physical violence against women and girls? Why are women so much less visible in the economic sector than men, especially at higher levels, and why are they so outnumbered in parliament right down to district level? 

The chains of gender inequality seem to be invisible and transmitted across generations, often from mother to daughter, and then reinforced and hammered home through social and traditional customs, through mainstream media, religion and education. No girl is born unequal. 

A number of programmes and projects have and continue to be implemented by government and partners to promoting gender equality and women’s rights. We even have men’s organizations such as the “Men’s Network for Gender and Development”, who are championing gender issues and individuals who include some of our traditional leaders who are addressing some of the social and cultural norms that hinder progress towards gender equality.

We need to address the root causes of gender inequality and make concerted efforts to uphold women’s rights.

While there are still several barriers that women and girls face, it is encouraging to note that women are now venturing into areas that were previously the domain of men and achieving their full potential in life. They are getting into public spaces to express their views. 

Success should be as normal for women as it is for men. And we can get there, if we work towards changing our mindsets.


The United Nations in Zambia, though its Agencies and Programmes, will continue to work with the Government and the people of Zambia, towards breaking down structural, social and cultural barriers among others that continue to prevent women from realizing their human rights and achieve gender-equality. 

We will continue to support affirmative action and we will work for social justice. 

Allow me to end with a quote from the UN Secretary-General HE António Guterres, who is also a champion for gender equality, in his 2020 message; he says: “The 21st century must be the century of women’s equality. Let us all play our part in making it so”.

I thank you.

Speech by
Coumba Mar Gadio
Resident Coordinator
Coumba Mar Gadio, PhD
UN entities involved in this initiative
International Labor Organization
International Organization for Migration
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Population Fund
United Nations Children’s Fund