Reporting on WTO’s first female head ‘sexist and racist’, say African UN leaders | Women’s rights and gender equality

Senior African leaders on the UN have criticised the “sexist and racist” language utilized in protection of the appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the brand new president of the World Commerce Group.

Okonjo-Iweala, a graduate of Harvard College, was confirmed as the brand new head of the WTO final week, making her the first girl and the first African to guide the organisation.

However members of the UN senior African group (Unsag) – together with Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, head of UN Girls, Winnie Byanyima, who leads UNAids, and Vera Songwe, the manager secretary of the UN Financial Fee for Africa – stated in a letter that the language utilized in some media to explain her appointment was “offensive, sexist and racist in a world the place each public and non-public sector management is dominated by ageing Caucasian males, who’re revered for the expertise and abilities they create and have by no means been characterised by their lineage and offspring”.

Mlambo-Ngcuka, co-chair of Unsag, advised the Guardian: “There may be plenty of prejudice in opposition to girls in management that’s simply refusing to go away. We see it in terms of female politicians or at grassroots degree.”

One headline within the Swiss every day newspaper Luzerner Zeitung originally learn: “This grandmother will develop into the boss of the WTO.” The headline was later modified.

“When males ascend [to power] at a later age, we have fun their expertise and accomplishments,” stated Mlambo-Ngcuka. “Nobody talks about them as a grandfathers, it’s not a related speaking level.”

She stated UN Girls was pushing onerous to deal with the harassment female leaders face, “which in some instances discourages girls from arising and taking on management positions as a result of they don’t want this nonsense.

“We actually want to speak about this so subsequent time we’ve got an identical scenario, newspapers assume twice earlier than they write something like that.”

Her feedback got here as UN Girls gears up for 2 main worldwide conferences this 12 months to advance gender equality, together with girls’s function in politics.

Mlambo-Ngcuka stated the Generation Equality boards, which shall be held subsequent month in Mexico and in France in June, will convey collectively authorities leaders, civil society, younger folks and the non-public sector to agree a costed set of proposals to attain gender justice in coverage areas – together with equal pay, violence, healthcare and decision-making. The boards had been postponed final 12 months due to the pandemic.

A man reads a newspaper with a front-page story about the appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as WTO president
A person reads a newspaper with a front-page story concerning the appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as WTO president, in Ibadan, Nigeria. {Photograph}: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty

Mlambo-Ngcuka stated girls have been shouldering the accountability alone for too lengthy and referred to as on males to cease being bystanders and be a part of the battle for equality.

Males’s failure to behave “allows violence and violations to thrive”, she stated. “They don’t seem to be taking the steps to affix the aspect of girls, and we’re saying being bystanders actually will not be an choice.

“As [Nelson] Mandela said, when good males do nothing, that may be a conspiracy in opposition to girls,” added the previous South African deputy president.

She stated the pandemic had introduced a “willingness to take heed to the problems that we’ve got been elevating so many instances, on so many alternative platforms”, however the devastation it has wreaked on girls’s lives, notably economically, was not mirrored within the stimulus packages being mentioned.

“We’d like the worldwide monetary establishments and the nationwide establishments to speak about this and what they’re doing,” she stated. “When they’re speaking about constructing again higher, they need to discuss it in a gender responsive and equitable manner.”

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