I am Generation Equality: Lee Mi-kyung, overseas aid administrator and women’s rights activist

Billions of people across the world stand on the right side of history every day. They speak up, take a stand, mobilize, and take big and small actions to advance women’s rights. This is Generation Equality.

Date: Monday, March 30, 2020

I am Generation Equality
Lee Mi-kyung works to help women and others in developing countries as President of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). Photo: KOICA
Lee Mi-kyung works to help women and others in developing countries as President of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). Photo: KOICA

Three things you can do to be part of Generation Equality:

  • Remember that we are all connected and thus we need solidarity.
  • Act knowing that gender equality is not only for women but for everyone to live better lives.
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  • Pass your voice and efforts to achieve gender equality on to the next generation — what you do not teach and share disappears from history/herstory.

I am Generation Equality because…

Gender equality is not a women’s issue but a matter of human rights.

The concept of “human right” has been interpreted differently according to society’s definition of who is a human being under which conditions. Women have achieved human rights through endless struggles and efforts; for example, the right to vote, the right to receive the same wages, and the right to wear pants were all rights that women had to acquire. I have been dedicated to the movement throughout my life.

Ease the coronavirus’ impact on women

The global level of solidarity for the global agenda, including the coronavirus pandemic, is the most urgent issue of our time.

We as a global citizens also urgently need to pay attention to the emerging impacts on women whose burdens of unpaid care work have been exacerbated by the closure of schools, and the women and children now at greater risk of exploitation and sexual violence, as exemplified by the economic impacts of the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Finally, global strategic plans for preparedness and response must be grounded in strong gender analysis for this type of global crisis.

On gender equality we are all connected regardless of our ages, countries, ethnicities and so on. From my lifelong experience advocating for gender equality, women's movements, experiences and success stories are not fragmented. No matter how far away we are, we can see that we are connected, affecting each other. In my work as President of Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), I always advocate for women, who comprise half the population but still remain on the periphery of patriarchal society, especially the many poor women living in developing countries, who will also be the beneficiaries and leaders of a society of sustainable development.

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“On gender equality we are all connected regardless of our ages, countries, ethnicities and so on.”


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Men’s active participation in all of this is crucial

For all of us to respect women, we must change social and cultural norms and mindsets, to recognize that gender equality is a matter of human rights. There are still many countries, including Korea, where these rights are not properly guaranteed. A world that does not discriminate by gender from birth should be a universal principle in all countries and sectors.

Men’s active participation in all of this is crucial. If equality is not a women’s issue but a matter of human rights, it includes all human beings, and without men’s strong efforts advocating for gender equality, it cannot be fully achieved. Their voices, presence, research and advocacy activities from top to bottom are all equally important.

Everyone should be a women’s rights activist because gender equality is a matter of human rights, which means it is not for women only but for everyone in the world.

Hansol Park contributed to this article.


Lee Mi-kyung is President of Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). She served five terms as Member of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea from 1996 to 2016, and was Standing Vice-Chairperson and Representative of Korea Women’s Association United from 1987 to 1996.