Regional Director’s Opening Remarks HeForShe Launch Event, Tsinghua University, China


Date: Sunday, April 12, 2015


Professor Dr. Zhang Yi, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Tsinghua University,
Mme. Mu Hong, Director-General, All-China Women’s Federation
HeForShe Advocates,
Distinguished guests, Students,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me also warmly congratulate Tsinghua University, one of the top universities in China, on its 104th anniversary! 

On behalf of UN Women, it is my pleasure to be with here at Tsinghua as you join the HeForShe campaign and host its launch here in China.

We know that we cannot succeed in creating an equitable, just and peaceful world unless women are safe from violence; unless we have equal voice in parliaments, the board room, community groups or at the kitchen table and unless and until we can access equally quality education, jobs, finance and other resources.

Are you aware that many of the women who are here this afternoon are already facing greater hurdles than their male peers.

Are you aware that the young men in this room have a 77.3% likelihood of employment after they graduate? By contrast the likelihood for the young women here is just 65.9%.  Employers discriminate against women, assuming that they will marry, have children, and either drop out of the workforce or spend a lot of time caring for their children. This assumption exists because, in China, typically, women carry out almost three times as much unpaid housework and care work as men, taking care of the home and looking after ageing parents as well as children.

And so HeForShe invites, indeed calls on men and boys to build on the work of the women’s movement as equal partners in realizing the shared vision of gender equality that will benefit all of humanity.

Since its launch at the United Nations, on 20 September, 2014, hundreds of thousands of men from around the world including Heads of State, CEOs, and global luminaries from all walks of life have committed to gender equality.

Just over the last two weeks, the President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, signed on to the HeforShe as did the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg and Barclays Bank adopted the campaign globally. All men of the Swedish Cabinet have signed up as well. Proctor and Gamble in Thailand only last week joined the Campaign.

While the pledge is symbolic, we are also asking for specific action that contributes to social change. We are asking those who sign up to define what they will do to make a difference.

There are many areas in which men must make a difference.

  • Men can stand up against sexual harassment of women – on campus, in the workplace, on public transportation, and online.
  • Men can stand up against videogames and entertainment that provide men and boys with opportunities for virtual violence against women.
  • Increasingly, internet forums and social media sites are hosts to aggressive comments directed at women. Men can take responsibility for calling out such abuses.
  • Men must take action to stop violence against women, refuse to be a by-stander, to denounce violence and reject impunity.

In the family:

  • Men can reject the use of violence in the home, which is still too prevalent as domestic violence is estimated to be as high as 24.7 per cent in China.
  • Men can reject son preference which has led to a skewed sex ratio in China
  • Men can reject gender stereotypes about men’s role and sharing the care of children, the sick and the elderly.

I understand that in China, like everywhere else, gender stereotypes also burden men in particular ways, sending the message that men must be the economic provider. Wouldn’t the pressure on men be much less if society valued women and men equally and promoted equal opportunities, cooperation and mutual respect?

In public decision-making:

  • Men must promote women’s leadership and participation. Worldwide, eight out of every ten parliamentarians are men.

You can use your influence to make visible this marginalisation and seek solutions to ensure that women have access to the spaces where decisions are made that affect the lives of everyone in society.

And so here in China, UN Women is proud to partner with the Tsinghua as the first university to sign up for this campaign in Asia pacific region.

Around the world, HeForShe partners with public and private sector bodies who are committed to completing the transformation started by women around the world in the twentieth century. A transformation which ensures that women, men, boys and girls are equally valued for their shared inherent and universal humanity. These partners are ready and willing to bring the campaign to all those in their spheres of influence, as champions for gender equality

I am pleased that the University has pledged its support to play such a role and look forward to working hand in hand with you to widen and deepen this global solidarity movement and show that we mean change, change that is led by the kinds of analytical reflections and evidence that an academic institution can provide.

There are many ways in which an institution like the university can promote change. As teachers and researchers, university personnel are thought leaders, with socializing influence over your students, for the most part youth, seeking direction and meaning in their lives.

You also have a unique opportunity to challenge negative gender stereotypes and to use your influence and channels to promote healthy and respectful relationships between women and men and to work with the state to shape evidence-based policy and programmes that advance women’s equal voice, choices and safety.

You can contribute to redefining outdated notions of masculinities and replacing them with ideas of manhood that are caring, respectful and equitable.

We thank Tsinghua University for this mobilization today and for being a partner at this launch of HeforShe in China.

Ultimately, HeforShe is a personal commitment. In signing up, men’s message is that they commit to living equality in their own lives, whether in the family, especially in the family, in the workplace, in the community. It is a pledge to change the world.

Sign up for HeForShe. Make a commitment to make a change. And then tell us about it. You will be joining a worldwide movement.

Together we can build a world that is better for all of us – men and women, boys and girls.

We congratulate you and your colleagues on your leadership in making this change.

Roberta Clarke
Regional Director
UN Women Asia Pacific