Intervention by Ambassador Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN at the side event titled “Women and the Origins of the UN – A Southern Legacy” (22 May 2018)

Friends, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me begin by appreciating the efforts of the Permanent Mission of Brazil in organizing this event.

It is timely to highlight the legacy of the remarkable women who, despite the glass ceiling, helped shape the foundations of this Organization and the emergence of a world order based on the rule of law, international cooperation and respect for the rights of all peoples to equality, self determination, larger freedoms and greater prosperity.

The bold and pathbreaking perspectives and perseverance of these great women in promoting this unprecedented architecture are all the more relevant today when the foundations of the world order they helped to establish is under threat from the forces of extremism, racism, ultra nationalism, exclusion and unilateralism.

We also thank the researchers for their ground-breaking work and hope that they will continue to discover the numerous inspiring contributions which so many heroic women have made to international peace, prosperity and cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This endeavor to identify, acknowledge and embrace these often overlooked figures of modern history is essential because the role of these outstanding women deserves recognition as the architects of the post World War order whose emphasis on international cooperation, sovereign equality, rule of law and universality for human rights for both men and women saved humanity from the scourge of yet another global war.

Such recognition will also serve as an inspiration for the women and girls who are today so critically engaged in advocating and advancing the values that were ultimately enshrined in the UN Charter and the numerous laws and norms developed over the last 70 years on the basis of the Charter’s principles and purposes.

Indeed, this event is a timely recognition that the perspective and contribution of women, including in leadership roles, remains indispensable to overcoming most of the global and ‘man-made’ challenges the world faces today.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The establishment of the United Nations was a water-shed moment in human history. Emerging from the ashes of conflict and destruction, the world’s peoples came together to rewrite the rules of international relations and to advance an unprecedented vision of cooperation, peace and prosperity among and within nations.

But this was by no means an isolated movement led only by men in places such as Yalta and San Francisco. In many other locations across the world, women had already seized the moment to reorder the structures that would determine the destiny of their peoples and nations.

This tectonic shift in the active participation of women in national and world affairs was also visible in the creation of my own country.

Pakistan emerged as a reality as a result of a sustained political struggle spanning several decades. It could not have become a reality without the active participation of the women who struggled as vigorously as men in securing the creation of Pakistan.

Encouraged and motivated by their strong participation in the freedom movement, and eager to prove themselves in the newly created country, many women leaders worked tirelessly in those formative days, as politicians, diplomats, community leaders, student activists, members of the legislative assembly and special envoys to various international conferences.

Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, remembered as the Mother of the Nation, Begum Ra’ana Liaqat Ali Khan, Begum Jahan Ara Shahnawaz and Begum Shaista Ikramullah are some luminaries from a long list of noteworthy women who helped forged the concept of a progressive and democratic Pakistan wedded to the values of peace, security and international cooperation embedded in the UN Charter.

With a progressive background, these women were the true custodians of fundamental human rights. During negotiations in various international fora, including the UN, they championed the liberal values of equality, dignity and non-discrimination.

At the same time, they also brought with them their unique perspectives, having experienced different, and at times very difficult, realities and challenges. They were indeed well qualified to protect and promote the interests of the many peoples and nations emerging then from the yoke of colonial and imperial rule.

Begum Shaista Ikramullah, for one, was member of the first Legislative Assembly of Pakistan. She forcefully advocated women’s rights, and her untiring efforts resulted in realization of the right to inherit property in our nascent domestic laws. She also worked on laws guaranteeing all citizens- male and female - equal pay for equal work, equality of status and equal opportunities.

Her dedication to women’s rights was also visible when, as a member of the Pakistan delegation, she argued for, and succeeded in securing endorsement for equal rights of women in marriage in Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She also played a key role in negotiations of the Convention against Genocide.

Nor can we overlook the contributions of Viqarunissa Noon, who helped consolidate some of Pakistan’s key role in international affairs.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It was the legacy of such women that inspired future generations of leaders in our part of the world. And as custodians of this illustrious legacy, women in Pakistan continue to set new standards of excellence, from Benazir Bhutto as the first elected female Prime Minister of a Muslim country to Dr. Nafis Sadik, the first female to head a major UN voluntarily-funded programme and the Secretary-General of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

Today, Pakistani women – such as Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai – continue to make outstanding contributions to the development of a new and enlightened world, a world free of all forms of discrimination and abuse, a world where the glass ceiling is being shattered, a world where women increasingly contribute to realizing the goal of One Humanity that is the unspoken but fundamental objective of the United Nations.