UNRC Opening Speech on the occasion of IWD event - Ring the Bell for Gender Equality

Speech by Françoise Jacob, UNRC at the Ring the Bell for Gender Equality, IWD event organized by Belgrade Stock Exchange and UN Global Compact Network Serbia

Let me start by the very positive development

Global Gender Gap Index for 2020 for Serbia equals 0.736, which puts Serbia on the position number 39 out of 153, similar to 2018 The Global Gender Gap Index was first introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 as a framework for capturing the magnitude of gender-based disparities and tracking their progress over time. The index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, education, health and political criteria (see Figure 1), and provides country rankings that allow for effective comparisons across regions

There is also significant progress in the top level of political leadership and political participation of women at national level (a female Prime Minister, key ministries entrusted to women, and women’s representation in parliament increased to 39%),

However, women account for only 6% among the presidents of municipalities/mayors (as per the latest elections in 2020), and for 31.3% among the members of the assemblies of the municipalities and towns/cities.

Women in Serbia are less active in the job market (with an activity rate of 41.9% vs. 56.6% for men in the working age population), and that has not improved since 2016.  Segregation has increased, with a higher concentration of women in the sectors of social services, especially during the Covid-19 pandemics.

Women also continue to earn lower wages across almost all age groups. The Gender Pay Gap shows 8.8% difference, at equal educated and performing similar work

In 2019 57% of new PHD holders were women and they make the majority in many academic fields such as Health (71%), Arts (68%), and Science (66%), while men are more represented in: Engineering, manufacturing and construction, Information and communications technology/ICT (66%) and Services (56%) – typically sectors with better pay. Men are dominant among the members of the Serbian Academy of Science and Art (SANU). They represent 90% of members.

So for us, at the UN, our key areas for action in the coming years will integrate a strong focus on achieving the last mile towards gender equality.

We will continuously address the barriers for full equality, which often relate to the other work and family activities that women carry, to pay and benefits, institutional weaknesses, and prejudices.

We also want to focus on the most vulnerable groups of women: that includes women with disabilities, women from neglected communities, women in rural areas, but also young women. Some barriers are so easy to fix (example for women with disabilities, sometimes just a matter of having the right infrastructure in building). Sometimes it is about making life long education, technical training or retraining available to these segments of the population. And most importantly, it is about ensuring that young women from all communities can contribute meaningfully to a better future in Serbia and flip the demographic trends.

Gender Equality & successful inclusion and representation of women in all economic and political areas leads to greater productivity, better conditions for all generations, and a healthier society. Women must fully realize their potential including in the private sector.

Finally, I should add that the UN is fully committed to work closely with the private sector, on these issues and others. We have many windows of opportunities opening up in Serbia right now, whether it is on issues related to Human Rights, or the Green Transformation. We need to maintain a sense of emergency in our joint actions, and we can only do that effectively if we work closely together.

The time is now!

Speech by
Françoise Jacob
UN Resident Coordinator
Françoise Jacob
UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women