Pakistan's Permanent Mission holds Virtual Event on Pakistani Women in Leadership at the United Nations

New York, 11 March 2022

On the occasion of International Women's Day, the Mission organized a virtual side-event to highlight the achievements of Pakistani women at the United Nations with the view to project a soft image of Pakistan. Ambassador Munir Akram, the Permanent Representative of Pakistan Mission to the UN, delivered opening and concluding remarks and also moderated the event.

In his opening remarks, the Permanent Representative, Ambassador Munir Akram highlighted the achievements of Pakistani women in all facets of public life and said that women have held prominent positions, including as Prime Minister, Governor of State Bank of Pakistan, Speaker of National Assembly, judge of Supreme Court of Pakistan, Chief Justice of High Court, and important portfolios in the Cabinet, as well as served as federal and provincial secretaries, district commissioners and district police officers, generals, fighter pilots, and UN Peacekeepers. He informed the audience that currently, 22.64% of Pakistan's diplomats were women, including several were serving Ambassadors.

He underlined that at the multilateral fora, dedicated and committed Pakistani women had always kept Pakistan's flag high. At the United Nations, Pakistani women were working in different entities at the UN Headquarters and in field missions with distinction. Pakistani Women Peacekeepers were providing assistance in conflict and post-conflict situations, and inspiring women around the globe. Pakistan became the first country to achieve the goal of deployment of 15% female staff officers as nearly 450 women have served in UN missions. It also achieved 50 percent female participation across our community engagement platoons in UN Peacekeeping Missions.

To highlight some of the achievements of Pakistani women, Ambassador further stated that in 2021, Ms. Helena Iqbal from Pakistan Police has been appointed as police commissioner for the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS). Earlier, Ms. Shahzadi Gulfam of Pakistan Police received the first-ever International Female Police Peacekeeper Award in 2011. He underscored that these women were symbols of courage, selfless commitment, and professional excellence, which were the hallmark of Pakistani women.

Under-Secretary-General, Ms. Melissa Fleming who is heading the Department of Global Communication was the guest of honor. In her keynote address, she lauded the achievements and role of Pakistani women at the United Nations. She underlined that it was important to celebrate women and their role every day through advocating for their rights. She emphasized that the pandemic, climate change, and conflict have heightened the vulnerabilities which women face in the world and cited the example of conflict in Ukraine.

She underscored that at the UN, with Secretary General's commitment to gender parity, 50% women at the senior management position had been achieved in 2021. While narrating her own story, she stated that she started her career as a journalist and after several challenging assignments reached the UN to head the Department of Global Communication. She commended the role of men in her life who championed women's empowerment and supported her.

Ms. Fleming thanked Ambassador Akram and Pakistan Mission for inviting us to celebrate together with the women working for and associated with the United Nations, including the Pakistani women who served in various roles around the world. She said that "as women, we can all use our empathy, our leadership, our power, for the health and the well-being of people and our planet".

The special segment of Peacekeeping highlighted the contribution of women in UN peacekeeping. In her keynote speech, Major General Maureen O'Brien, Deputy Military Advisor in the Office of Military Affairs, Department of Peace Operations shared her thoughts on behalf of women serving in peacekeeping operations in the United Nations.

Major General Maureen O'Brien commended the exemplary role and services of Pakistani women peacekeepers and called them role models and pioneers. She also shared her personal journey to become first Irish Army General and how she fought against discrimination and how she served in 5 different UN Peacekeeping Missions. She advised the women to have goals and take concerted action with a commitment to achieve those goals.

She acknowledged Pakistani Women Peacekeepers saying: "the women of Pakistan serving in United Nations peace operations are acting and achieving goals. They indeed confirm that gender equality is not a dream but a goal for a world based on fundamental human rights". She thanked the women of Pakistan and all the troop-contributing countries further serving and courage in serving in the United Nations.

She further said that: "We have great examples of women from all over the world including Pakistan, who have met and surpassed these challenges and are at the forefront of decision making and leadership in the world. These women are role models for generations to come. They are trailblazers for gender equality, breaking stereotypes".

Ms. Valeria Robecco, President of, UN Correspondents Association stated that women all around the world faced discrimination and the world needed another 130 years to reach gender equality at the current rate of progress. She underlined that gender equality was necessary for achieving social and economic progress which was inclusive and sustainable. She commended Pakistani women who were serving at the United Nations in challenging roles.

Ms. Shazia Rafi, president and convener of air quality Asia and first female secretary-general of a global inter-parliamentary organization highlighted that still there were 81 countries that did not have women head of state or government ever. She also underlined that the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union also never had a women secretary-general. While describing her own life's journey, she urged young women to build support systems and coalitions to take every chance offered and help younger women as they rise in their own careers. She also urged male supervisors to be feminists both at home and at work and share power and responsibility with women.

Ms. Helena Iqbal Saeed Peacekeeper Awardee, the First-ever Pakistani woman who is serving as UN Police Commissioner underscored the role of women in the development of countries and in building inclusive societies. She stressed that there was a dire need for women in the police to combat gender-based crimes. She also emphasized the need for an increased number of women peacekeepers in UN Peacekeeping Missions. She shared her own professional journey as to how she broke the glass ceiling and reached the top ranks of the Police Service of Pakistan. She advised women to work with hard work and commitment and achieve professional excellence.

Ms. Shahzadi Gulfam first UN Women Peacekeeper Awardee shared her inspiring story that she hailed from the rural area of Pakistan and how with the support of her family, she joined the police. She served in four peacekeeping missions and due to her excellent services, she was awarded the first UN Women Peacekeeper Award in 2011.

Major Samia Rehman- Peacekeeper Awardee who is serving in DRC also shared her experiences as a women Peacekeeper. She stated that she along with her team brought peace in many regions of DRC which resulted in the repatriation of two battalions from the area where peace was established successfully in years 2019-2020. She also stated that gender equality was a must for a sustainable tomorrow.

Major Sadia Khan, a distinguished women Peacekeeper who served in DRC shared her experiences as a first paratrooper amongst the lady officers of the Pakistan Army. she highlighted that she had broken stereotypes about Pakistan women and that too in uniform through her role as a women peacekeeper.

Major Qurat-ul-Ain, a distinguished women Peacekeeper who is serving in South Sudan as staff support for female engagement and gender focal point shared how as a woman, she with greater empathy towards women and children could serve the community better. She highlighted that Pakistan Army provided a conducive environment to female Army officers which had helped her to serve Pakistan with distinction in the UN Peacekeeping Missions. She shared that one of her prominent achievements in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan was the preparation of an engagement team's handbook, which was the first document of its kind for any United Nations peacekeeping operations, and she has been nominated for the 2021 Secretary-General Award for UN Peacekeepers.

Ms. Sabina Saeed who is working as Board and Governance Specialist at UNFPA shared how due to incredibly supportive parents she was given the freedom to choose the profession of her choice. She also applauded the efforts of Pakistani women in UN Peacekeeping Missions. She stressed that with a commitment to pursue their dreams, women could achieve professional excellence.

Ms. Yumna Khan, Manager of the Youth Assembly for UN shared her experience how as a young intern, she started her career with UNHCR. She shared the role of the Youth Assembly in influencing the shaping of the 2030 Agenda. She advised young women to strive for the best and with dedication and commitment try to take seats at the table and create space for others. She also appreciated the role of men in promoting her talent and supporting her in a leadership role.

It may be underlined that the event was well attended and the role of Pakistani women in leadership positions at the United Nations was lauded by the member states. Permanent Representative of Sweden who had served in Pakistan appreciated the role of the Government of Pakistan in empowering women and expressed her admiration for strong Pakistani women. I have really witnessed that during my years in Pakistan. women's participation at the UN that we will hear today is very much in politics, in the economic sphere, in culture, in the security sector, and in justice, she recalled.

The Permanent Representative of Guyana also commended the resilience of Pakistani women and their leadership role at the United Nations and called Pakistani women "phenomenal." The Deputy Permanent Representative of Iran also paid tribute to exceptionally talented and courageous Pakistani women.

In his closing remarks, the Permanent Representative commended these outstanding Pakistani women for sharing their inspiring stories with the audience. He underlined that the Government is committed to promoting women's empowerment and gender equality in Pakistan in line with Sustainable Development Goal 5. He also underscored the role of men in providing support and a conducive environment to women for personal growth and development and advocating for their rights.

A documentary prepared by the Press Section of the Mission was also shown to the audience on Pakistani Women Peacekeepers. The event was live-streamed on Mission's YouTube Channel.