President of the Republic of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė
Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders

Speech by H.E. Dalia Grybauskaitė, President of the Republic of Lithuania,at the Women World Leaders’ Summit in Brazil

21 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our meeting today was preceded by a few days of intensive discussions in the Women Leaders Forum. About gender gaps, about stereotypes, about violence. Before that we had long debates on the final text of the Call to Action. All this represents only a small part of daily efforts across the world to advance women's rights, to make women's voice heard, to make gender equality a reality.

No one in this room has to be convinced of the damage any discrimination does to the well-being of our societies. Equally, all of us understand the role women play or could play in furthering the cause of sustainable development. At the same time, we all know the fact that the amount of documents already adopted and policies already enforced do not do the job alone.

There is a need for innovative, out of the box thinking that sees gender equality both as an aim in itself and as means in achieving sustainable welfare. Let me just underline a few aspects advancing gender equality from de jure to de facto.

First, on the status quo. We all know well that official statistics is not enough to evaluate the real human rights situation. Therefore we have to let women around the world speak for themselves. For example, if we have web-maps portraying global income inequality, why not to have one showing gender inequality? We invite citizens to report cases of bribery online, why not to create a space online to report cases of gender discrimination? And I say it with no illusion to quick-fixes. It is just a tool, one among many to investigate real situation using modern technologies.

Second, we have hundreds of international and national declarations and regulations on human rights and gender issues in particular. Probably one more legal act is being written as we speak. So let me ask a provocative question - when was the last time we reviewed all the documents before passing another one? I believe we need to take stock of what we have in order not to get lost in the forest of documents on gender issues. And even more important, we need to establish clear benchmarks for implementation. Otherwise we will continue proliferating documents, without substantive progress in their implementation.

Third, political will, constructive work of institutions cannot be really successful without a powerful engine - women's non-governmental organizations. Let's admit, NGOs are holding international and national leaders accountable for the commitments they made. Working together, governmental and NGOs can make an effort to answer the question whether our international and national institutions are fit to implement the already made decisions.

We have to be sure that international, governmental and non-governmental organizations are able to complement each other, not compete. Because issues like human trafficking or gender stereotypes go beyond national borders. 

In 2013 Lithuania will hold the EU presidency. One of our targets will be to monitor mechanisms how gender issues are solved in Europe. It is a regional initiative, but could serve as a nice start for a much larger campaign.

Let me finish by wishing us all to make sure that our call to action leads to action. An action to implement already agreed decisions, an action to make institutions fit for purpose and an action to seek an honest picture of the situation on gender equality worldwide. Because only a firm action will finally end gender discrimination which clearly blocks our way to a more sustainable future.

Thank you.

Dalia Grybauskaitė, President of the Republic of Lithuania

Official photo by Džoja Gunda Barysaitė