Every year on December 10 the world takes a moment to reflect on the day that the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document, adopted over 70 years ago, proclaims that all people, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, gender, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, or other status are equal.
The 2021 theme of Human Rights Day is Equality – that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. These principles of equality and non-discrimination are at the heart of human rights.
This year, as I think about equality, I am paying special attention to gender equality, particularly the need for equal rights for all women and girls. Around the world, we have seen how even modest investments in the abilities and potential of women and girls can yield transformative results not just for women and girls themselves, but for their families and communities. This is true in the United States, and it is true here in Azerbaijan.
Women and girls make up half the world’s population. Yet far too often, their voices and experiences go unheard or unheeded. They are underrepresented in the halls of political and economic power and overrepresented in poverty.
Equality is hard. Equality takes work. Equality means being active to protect the rights of people who may be different from you. This year, the United States issued our first-ever national gender strategy to advance the full participation of all people – including women and girls – in all aspects of society, including civil, economic, and political activities.
No country in the world has achieved gender equality. We can all make a difference. On Human Rights Day I encourage you to reflect on the word equality, what it means to you, to your life, and more importantly to the lives of others around you. If we join together, not just on this day, but on all days, to advance the rights of all – including women and girls – we can build a brighter future for all.