Expo 2020 Dubai: Women should not apologise for making decisions, says UN official

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed spoke at the world fair for Global Goals Week

By Anjana Sankar

Published: Sun 16 Jan 2022, 6:50 PM

Women should never apologise for being at the decision-making table and should use their power and position to fight biases and gender discrimination, a top UN official has said.

Quoting from her personal experience, Amina Mohammed, the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, "There is a lot that might have prevented me (as a woman)."

"It still holds you back …the male-conscious bias in a room where you are chairing a meeting, and then suddenly the men around the room having meeting without you. I mean, it is still happening," said Mohammed.


She was speaking at Expo 2020 on the urgency of implementing the sustainable development goals (SDGs) on the second day of the UN's Global Goals Week, highlighting the need for increased commitments to deliver on the promise of the Decade of Action.

Emphasising that the UN has "done a lot" to bring young people and women to the table in the last five years, she said it takes an effort to change the system.

"Then suddenly finding myself with a table full of women and saying 'where are the men' is a good feeling," said the official.

Once women get their place on the table, she said it is equally important to use the power and position to bring in systemic change.

"What I do is use what I have as a woman to push forward," she said, alluding to how she overcame the gender challenges.

"I think that we have to sometimes remember how to use our power at the table to do this, and never apologise for being a woman. And certainly, when you get into the room, don't try to be a man because there's so much more we bring to the table," said Mohammed.

She urged women to get hold of and use microphones to make their voices heard.

"It is a wonderful thing. Get it as often as you can because, without it, we don't have the same voice."

Conflict between scriptures and cultural interpretation

Reem Al Hashimy, UAE's minister of state for International Cooperation, who also attended the panel discussion virtually, said without women at the heart of policy decisions, countries cannot make progress in their SDGs.

Using the UAE's example where women are in the mainstream and in top leadership positions, Hashimy wondered why other countries that share similar religious and cultural values could not replicate the model.

She pointed out that there was a "large disparity between what the scriptures.. what the Quran says, and how culture redefines that."

"If you think of a country like Afghanistan, for example, but also many other communities across this region, and even include Sub Saharan Africa as well. There, until this day, a lack of understanding about how critical it is to be able to achieve progress and prosperity, of how impossible it is to achieve progress and prosperity in any nation if women don't sit at the heart of any design that is made accordingly," she said.

For any of the SDGs, whether it is poverty eradication or mitigating climate change, the minister said "Unless we are addressing it all together, we're not going to be able to advance anything."

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