Remarks by Dr Coumba Mar Gadio, UN Resident Coordinator on International Women's Day, 8 March 2021 Lusaka, Zambia

International Women's Day 2021

  • Your Excellency, Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia
  • Honourable Elizabeth Phiri, Minister of Gender
  • All Cabinet Ministers
  • Permanent Secretaries
  • Members of Parliament
  • Members of the Diplomatic Corps
  • Heads of UN agencies and international organisations
  • Representatives from Civil Society
  • Our dearest women and girls from all walks of life
  • Members of the media
  • Ladies and gentlemen

On behalf of the United Nations System in Zambia, I am greatly honoured and delighted to join all of you today as Zambia joins the rest of the World in commemorating the 2021 International Women’s Day. This years’ theme, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,” celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 global pandemic and highlights the gaps that remain.

In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated the depth and extent of the gender inequalities that exist between men and women, boys and girls. The cry for a more equal future could not be any louder than it is now.

Your Excellency

Allow me to first and foremost commend the Government of the Republic of Zambia through your leadership, for supporting nationwide efforts to advance women’s leadership as demonstrated through the progressive 7th National Development Plan which includes targets for achieving gender equality.

Your Excellency, Ladies and gentlemen

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage,

Today I was honoured to virtually join the IWD celebration in Zambia graced by Republican President “ECL at which I called for more women in decision making positions including politics in Zambia.

@UNZambia family led by Resident Coordinator @Coumba_Gadio today joined Zambia in celebrating IWD2021. Women leaders across the world, including in Zambia, have demonstrated their capacity to effectively lead COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.

Today, there is more acceptance than ever before that women bring different experiences, perspectives and skills to the table, and make significant contributions to decisions, laws and policies that work better for all.

However, despite the milestones recorded, women’s full and effective participation and leadership still lags behind. As revealed in the UN Secretary-General’s recent report for the upcoming 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, women are still under represented in public life and decision-making. For example, only 24.9 per cent of national parliamentarians are women. At the current rate of progress, gender equality among Heads of Government will take another 130 years.

We join other stakeholders in calling for increased participation of women in decision making. We call on politics parties to consider adopting more women as candidates in the August general elections.

Your Excellency, Ladies and gentlemen

As a result of lockdown and social distancing measures introduced to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, reports show an alarming increase in already existing barriers to gender equality and women’s leadership. Accompanying the crisis has been a spike in Gender-Based Violence, unemployment and poverty that have unduly affected women. Despite women comprising the majority of front-line workers, there is unequal and inadequate representation of women in national and global COVID-19 policy spaces.

To uphold women’s rights and fully leverage the potential of women’s leadership in COVID-19 preparedness and response, the perspectives of women and girls, in all of their diversity, must be integrated in the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes for response and recovery.

Some of the ways that can help women take the lead include:

  • Women supporting women and girls
  • Men supporting women and girls
  • Traditional leaders supporting women and girls
  • Policy makers and the legislature supporting women and girls
  • All of society supporting women

Your Excellency, Ladies and gentlemen

We will achieve our common global goals including the Sustainable Development Goal on achieving Gender Equality and Empowerment of all women and girls and indeed Zambia’s Vision 2030 only if we are able to create equal opportunities for all, regardless of who or where they are, while addressing the gender-related challenges that have been worsened by COVID-19. Additionally, we should all apply human rights standards to tackle deeply entrenched, systemic, intergenerational inequalities, exclusion and discrimination.

Your Excellency, Ladies and gentlemen

This years’ International Women’s is an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of women and girls in re-building the world we want post COVID-19, the need for global and national solidarity in support of women, as well as our interconnectedness and shared vision of human rights for all.

The United Nations in Zambia, through its agencies, continues to work with the Government and the people of Zambia, towards breaking down structural, social, legal and cultural barriers among others, that continue to prevent equal representation and women’s leadership efforts.

We are all in this together. From individuals to Government, from civil society and grassroot communities to the private sector, everyone has a role in building a post COVID-19 Zambia that is better for the present and future generations. For this to happen, we need to ensure that the voices of the most affected and vulnerable women and girls inform our recovery efforts.

Your Excellency, Ladies and gentlemen

Allow me to end with a quote from the UN Secretary-General, His Excellency Mr. António Guterres in his 2021 message for International Women’s Day.

I quote:

“When women lead in government, we see bigger investments in social protection and greater inroads against poverty.  When women are in parliament, countries adopt more stringent climate change policies. When women are at the peace table, agreements are more enduring.” 

End of quote.


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