President Kersti Kaljulaid spoke about the global rights of women and children saying "there can be no democracy, no security and no development without one half of humankind" at the United Nations on Wednesday.
Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, Kaljulaid's speech, her last in front of the UN, covered recovery from the pandemic, climate change, digitalization, Belarus, Ukraine and women and children living in conflict zones.
Kaljulaid said old "conflicts still ravage" countries such as Syria and Ukraine are ongoing and new ones have occurred too, such as Belarus, using "new hybrid tools to attack democratic societies with innocent people".
"Those who suffer the most continue to be the most vulnerable in our societies – women, children and adolescents," said the president, who is UN's Global Advocate for the Every Woman Every Child initiative.
Speaking about women's rights in Afghanistan under the Taliban, she said: "When I visited Afghanistan this April, I had the opportunity to meet people who had grown up in a society of reconstruction and hope towards the future... Today their future looks grim to say the least. So does the situation in the whole country."
She said that women's rights had also been set back by the coronavirus pandemic and "even the most developed countries are not exempt".
"The statistics which concern women's participation in the workforce or their proportion among the unemployed, the number of women unable to reach ante- or postnatal care, the number of children deprived of school meals – is the silent testimony, a dark shadow of this pandemic. The shadow pandemic. And things were not good even before the COVID hit – for example, we were not on track to reach our SDG goal of Zero Hunger by 2030," Kaljulaid said.
1/3 We must not forget that the opportunities for women and children globally have been hit hard by the pandemic. Women's participation in the workforce or their proportion among the unemployed, the number of women unable to reach ante- or postnatal care… #UNGA76 pic.twitter.com/f13Na5QWOn— Kersti Kaljulaid (@KerstiKaljulaid) September 22, 2021
"Countries that repress their people spread fear also to other countries and societies," she said, raising the topics of Belarus and the conflict in Ukraine.
"That is why we continue to support the rights of women and girls around the world – there can be no democracy, no security and no development without one half of humankind," she said.
Kaljulaid called on the UN to work together to solve the problems the world is facing, such as climate change.
"If there is a will, there is always a way," she said.
Kaljulaid's speech can be read in full on the president.ee website here.
Editor: Helen Wright