Women’s underrepresentation at the UNGA is a stain on global diplomacy

women's underrepresentation/ unga

Women’s underrepresentation at the UNGA is a stain on global diplomacy


The recently concluded 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has undoubtedly left an indelible mark on the global stage. Among the many remarkable moments, President Buhari’s calls for urgent climate action in Africa stands out as a highlight. However, as we applaud these important moments, we cannot ignore the stark reality that continues to persist, the underrepresentation of women.


It is both a paradox and a tragedy that in the 78 years of UNGA’s existence, only four women have been elected as its President. President Ramaphosa’s noble gesture of leading an all-women delegation to the UN General Assembly is commendable. Yet, it is sobering to realize that most of the seats in that assembly were occupied by men. “In his words, Today, I am accompanied by an all-women delegation to this UN General Assembly. It should be a matter of concern to us that most of us sitting in this assembly are men. The women of the world have a right to be here to represent the views of women across the world”.


He also mentioned that in South Africa, 50% of the members of the cabinet are women, which prompts questions about his intentions. Was this statement made to challenge other countries, or is the data accurate? Is he genuinely advocating for women or is it merely hypocrisy? While he was applauded for raising that awareness and for his efforts, it’s concerning that we applaud the obvious.


We must pause and reflect on the irony of celebrating what should be normal, women’s participation in decision-making forums. It is alarming that we continue to settle for so little progress when it comes to gender equity. How can we effectively address issues that disproportionately affect women when those very women are not present in the rooms where life-altering decisions are being made?


The question of women’s representation in climate change discussions is particularly critical. How can we expect a room filled with mostly men to advocate effectively for women’s empowerment and dignity, including vital matters like period dignity? The answer is simple, we cannot.


It is also important to note that women’s equal participation and leadership in political and public life are essential to achieving the sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

For as long as we continue to play “spot the female” in every room where life-changing decisions are made, then gender equity will remain a distant goal. If we continue to dismiss women’s concerns as “pity parties,” we will continue to stumble on the path to gender equality.


This dataset illustrates the gender disparity among speakers at the UNGA over the past five years. In 2019 (74th UNGA session), there were 192 speakers, consisting of 16 females and 176 males. In 2020 (75th UNGA session), 196 speakers participated, with 11 females and 185 males. Moving on to 2021 (76th UNGA session), there were 193 speakers, including 13 females and 180 males. In 2022 (77th UNGA session), there were 195 speakers, with 22 females and 173 males. Lastly, in 2023 (78th UNGA session), 195 speakers took part, comprising 21 females and 174 males.


The glaring truth is that women are still waiting for equal opportunities, equal pay, equality under the law, and the recognition of the value of their work and opinions. Despite the tireless efforts of global change-makers dedicated to gender equality, systemic barriers persist and hinder progress.


Our world hungers for gender balance, inclusive decision-making, and diverse perspectives to confront the myriad challenges we face today. While the UNGA has witnessed historic moments for gender equality, we must acknowledge that there is much ground to cover in terms of women’s representation and participation.


Here are a few things that can be done to promote gender equality, at the UN and beyond.


  • Integrate gender equality into all UN’s discussions.


  • Hold states accountable for gender parity and report progress.


  • Commit to equal political representation.


  • Advocate gender parity through quotas, inclusivity, policies.


  • Involve women at all levels when making UN decisions.


  • Create platforms where women can speak out during events like #UNGA.


  • Take action to stop violence against women in politics and protect women who are running for office.


  • Celebrate and talk about women’s achievements to inspire others.


  • Support programs that help women learn about diplomacy (working with other countries) so they can be more involved.


  • Provide more resources and power to the organizations that focus on women’s issues. This helps them do better work.


  • Promote gender education and awareness campaigns to challenge stereotypes and biases that perpetuate gender inequality.


#Gender equality is not the problem; Gender equality is the solution.







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