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Gender equality is not a zero-sum game but a win-win proposition

Statement by Ambassador Andrej Benedejčič, Permanent Representative of Slovenia, at the inauguration of International Gender Champions, Vienna, 14 June 2017

Dear colleagues,

According to an old Slovenian proverb, it is women who hold up "three corners of the house".  However, despite their critical contribution to society, gender equality is not yet a reality in any country in the world. 

It therefore gives me great pleasure to be here today with so many of you.  I think that your presence shows that we are all aware of the basic fact that women's rights and gender equality are part of our collective human rights. One only has to look at newborn babies to realize that girls and boys must be treated equally in their later life.

I am a father myself of a girl, and it is for me on a personal note simply unimaginable to think that she would somehow be discriminated against later in life.  Or that she may suffer from violence or ill treatment just because of her gender.

And that brings me to my main point:  it is also up to us, men, both individually and collectively, to help in breaking down artificial barriers and glass ceilings that still confront women.  It is for this reason that last year I decided to get involved at the OSCE as the Chair of the MenEngage Network.  And it is also for this reason that this year I decided to join my colleagues from the United States and Costa Rica in preparing the inauguration of the International Gender Champions here at the Vienna International Center.  Let me therefore thank all the male colleagues who have already joined the initiative.  You have set an important example for others to follow. 

The last thing that I would like to emphasize is that in Slovenia we believe that gender equality is not a zero-sum game, but a win-win proposition.  Our own experience has shown that increasing the number of women in crisis-management processes and peacekeeping missions leads to better quality of brokerage and mediation.  We have also seen that women's participation and leadership not only augments public and political life but also improves it.  In practice this means that by championing causes such as equal fatherhood in family life and defeminizing work-life balance processes, we men can act as important allies and agents of change that is not only just and right, but also mutually beneficial.

I would therefore like to congratulate you all once again for being here and for deciding to become International Gender Champions!

Thank you.