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Empowered women create empowered societies

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Hina Jilani joins panellists at "The Power of Breaking Barriers: Systemic change, individual gain" during Women Deliver 2019. (Photo: Women Deliver)

Pioneering human rights lawyer and Elder Hina Jilani delivers strong words on women's empowerment, at the 2019 Women Deliver Global Conference in Vancouver, Canada.


It is often said that when women are empowered, the whole society benefits. Hina Jilani drew on her experience in Pakistan to explain the reality of this frequently used maxim, at the 2019 Women Deliver Global Conference in Vancouver, Canada:

“In Pakistan, almost 100% of the human rights legislation was proposed by women since 2008, when 25% Parliament seats started to be reserved for women.”

Hina Jilani - Elder
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She also called for more women in the justice sector, noting that the lack of women on the Supreme Court of Pakistan and pointing to the positive role played by female judges in setting up gender based violence courts in the country.

Violence against women is a profound and urgent global injustice. It is estimated that 35 percent of women worldwide – 1.3 billion people, and equivalent to the entire populations of North America and Europe combined – have experienced intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives. This is estimated to cost countries between one and four percent of GDP.

A major theme considered during the conference was the recent regressive developments on abortion rights, particularly in the United States, and the chilling effect this regression has on the rest of the world. Hina Jilani expressed her solidarity with those defending Roe vs. Wade and the agency of women to decide what happens to their bodies.

Several references were also made connecting a woman’s right to choose, Universal Health Coverage and gender equality. The message was clear: Universal Health Coverage, and by extension, gender equality cannot be fully achieved without Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

"Women's issues are social issues. Women's rights cannot be promoted in isolation."

Hina Jilani - Elder
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Striking a positive note, Hina Jilani emphasised the resilience of women in challenging situations noting their ability to "thrive when being pushed back". She echoed fellow Elder Mary Robinson who called on women to “be organised, to get involved in political struggles and to show solidarity with each other”, in late May 2019 at the Open Government Partnership Global Summit 2019 plenary on gender and inclusion.

Hina Jilani issued a powerful call to women leaders to do more to protect female human rights defenders around the world.

She also called on groups and leaders to stand “with” women’s movements, not ‘for’ them, emphasising the importance of listening and collaboration to ensure shared successes:

"Law becomes an important tool when you are trying to get results but in order for the results to be acceptable you need to work from below and with the community."

Hina Jilani - Elder
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Although not a major focus of the conference, justice is in fact central to the realisation of human rights and underpins many aspects of gender equality. Adequately financing this effort is crucial to its success.

To close the shaming justice gap, leaders must invest in legal empowerment initiatives and grassroots justice providers; increase funding for access to justice for women; and prioritise funding for civil justice as well as criminal justice.

Leaders will have an opportunity to commit the necessary resources to deliver on their Sustainable Development Goal commitments at the High Level Political Forum in July. Find out more about how The Elders are actively advocating for this.

Watch the “The Power of Breaking Barriers” plenary discussion at Women Deliver 2019:


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