Beijing, 1 October 2020
On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, we gather to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing. The aim is to promote gender equality and women's development around the world. I am glad to address this event and I wish this high-level meeting a full success.
Women are creators of human civilization and drivers of social progress, and they have made extraordinary achievements across all fields of endeavor. In the ongoing fight against COVID-19, female medical and epidemic control workers, researchers, community workers and volunteers over the world, braving danger and working around the clock, have fought at the front line of the battle. With their dedication and ingenuity, they have written heroic epics of saving people and protecting lives. They truly deserve our admiration.
In China, at the height of the battle against COVID-19, more than 40,000 health workers from across the country rushed to Hubei province, which was the hardest hit by the virus, and two-thirds of them were women. Among them was a nurse from Guangdong province who had not yet reached the age of 20. Answering a reporter's question of whether she was too young to help others, she said, "The moment I put on the protective suit, I am not a kid anymore." Those words moved the whole nation. In fact, many women medical workers in China, like this girl, and in their tens of thousands, have taken on the virus bravely by putting themselves in harm's way. Their courage and hard work have shown the very best of the medical profession. Their devotion and sacrifice have kept the nation intact through difficult times.
Over the past 25 years, the powerful message of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing has unleashed many positive changes. The social status of women is significantly higher. Increasingly women are playing an important role of "supporting half of the sky". Indeed, gender equality and women's empowerment are now important goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
On the other hand, the spread of COVID-19 worldwide has taken a heavy toll on economy, employment and people's life, and has brought greater challenges to women. As Secretary-General Guterres said, the gains made in gender equality over the past decades are at risk of being rolled back. In both containing COVID-19 and promoting post-COVID economic and social recovery, it is particularly important that we address the special needs of women and deliver on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. To this end, China calls for taking the following steps:
First, we need to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on women. We need to pay special attention to the health, social and psychological needs and working environment of frontline women medical workers. We also need to place the protection of women's and girls' rights and interests high on the agenda of both public health and economic reopening. In particular, we need to create more job opportunities for women and crack down on violations of women's rights and interests. We need to improve social services, with priority given to special groups such as pregnant and postnatal women, and children. Special care may be given to women in difficulty such as those in poverty, old age or with disabilities. Efforts must be made to enhance benefit for women, address their concerns, and deliver results for their well-being.
Second, we need to strive for genuine gender equality. While posing unprecedented challenges, COVID-19 also presents an opportunity for us to draw lessons from it and reshape the future. Global development needs to be placed on a course that is more equal, inclusive and sustainable, and women's development is an important criterion to gauge its progress. Protection of women's rights and interests must become the commitment at the national level. As we pursue post-COVID recovery, we may create new opportunities for women to participate in decision-making and be more involved in national, economic, cultural and social governance. We need to eliminate prejudice, discrimination and violence against women and make gender equality a social norm and moral imperative observed by all.
Third, we need to ensure that women advance at the forefront of our times. In the 21st century, the aspiration for a better life will be meaningless without all-round progress in women's development; this aspiration can only be achieved when women contribute even greater vision and strength to this cause. In pursuing development, we need to protect women's rights and interests and improve their lives, and ensure that women's development goes hand in hand with economic and social development. We need to remove barriers and create an enabling environment in which women are motivated, their creativity is unleashed to the full, and they truly feel satisfied, happy and secure. We need to fully leverage the role of the government and mobilize all stakeholders to support women and help them live their lives to the full.
Fourth, we need to enhance global cooperation in advancing women's development. Without a peaceful and stable global environment and sustainable development, and without leveraging the UN's key coordinating role, the cause of women's development cannot move forward. We support the UN in making women's development a priority. Our Organization should do more, both to eliminate violence, discrimination, poverty and other old problems and to address new challenges such as bridging the gender digital divide, so as to make women-related targets early harvest results of its 2030 Agenda. We also need to support greater representation of women in the UN system. UN Women should expand its toolkit for promoting gender equality and improve the global roadmap for women's development.
Equality between men and women is a basic state policy in China. We have put in place a legal system comprising over 100 laws and regulations for fully protecting women's rights and interests. As a matter of fact, China is recognized by the World Health Organization as one of the ten fast-track countries in women's and children's health. In China, the gender gap in compulsory education has been largely closed. Women account for over 40 percent of the country's workforce, and more than half of China's Internet start-up businesses are set up by women.
Five years ago, I proposed a Global Leaders' Meeting on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment. Now, the host of proposals I put forward at the meeting for advancing global cooperation in this endeavor have all been implemented. And China is prepared to do even more to support the global cause of women's development. In the coming five years, China will donate another 10 million dollars to UN Women. China will continue to fund the UNESCO Prize for Girls' and Women's Education to support this global effort. China also proposes the convening in 2025 of another Global Leaders' Meeting on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment.
We still have a long way to go and need to work real hard to build a world in which women are free from discrimination as well as a society of inclusive development. Let us work together and redouble efforts to promote gender equality and advance the global cause of women's development.