12 things Australia can learn from the UN Women convention

"Full emancipation. Full liberty. Full equity. Full equal opportunity. That's the challenge for all of us" Liberian ...

"Full emancipation. Full liberty. Full equity. Full equal opportunity. That's the challenge for all of us" Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Photo: Getty Images

On Tuesday night, here in New York City, the United Nations kicked off the annual Commission into the Status of Women. Bringing together more than 9000 participants from across the world, this year's theme is Planet 50/50 by 2030.

Over the next two weeks, world governments, women's rights organisations and corporate sponsors will commit to a plan for worldwide gender equality within the next 15 years.

While this year's CSW has been criticised for an alleged lack of transparency (some women's groups say they been shut out of declaration-writing process), Tuesday's opening night which featured live music and speeches from famous and non-famous women (and some male allies), including Hillary Clinton, Melinda Gates, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Bollywood star Farhan Akhtar, had nonetheless, as Clinton herself noted, an atmosphere of hope and celebration.

From almost three hours of speeches from an impressively diverse range of speakers, including that heady mix of celebrities, politicians and big business players you can only find in America, here, to get your inner Rosie the Riveter fired up, are just 12 powerful quotes from the opening of the UN Commission into the Status of Women.


"Full emancipation. Full liberty. Full equity. Full equal opportunity. That's the challenge for all of us. It's a big challenge and it's one that we can only achieve if all the women of this world stand up and say: It's time."    Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia.

"Just remember this: because of an imbalance of power, gender inequalities and violence, little girls and women are forfeiting their choices, their smiles, their vitality, their art, their music, their childhoods, and their identities. But we cannot sit here with the resources we all have at our disposal and let them also lose their hope."    Cheryl Saban, founder of Saban Self-Worth Foundation for Women and Girls.

"I come from a part of the world (South-East Asia) with a long cultural history of gender fluidity…Trans women were either cultural bearers or spiritual leaders. I want to reclaim that identity.  Today I am a proud woman of colour, a woman of transgender experience."    Gina Rocero, trans advocate and Ted speaker.

"Twenty years ago, declaring that women's rights are human rights was considered ground-breaking – thankfully it's now routine… I see a future where we unlock the vast potential for women. But to realize this vision we'll have to step it up – step up our commitment to finishing this, the great unfinished business of the 21st century."    Hillary Clinton, former US Secretary of State, The Clinton Foundation.

"Women and girls should be able to lead the lives they want. Not only should they but our future depends on whether or not they can. We can't be the society we want to be until women and girls are able to contribute on a fully equal basis."    Melinda Gates, philanthropist, The Gates Foundation.

"I come from a part of the world currently recognised to be the most dangerous in the world –the Middle East and North Africa. But, in Tunisia, we have successfully achieved milestones towards democracy and stability. In 2010 we revolted for freedom and dignity. We were the spark of an uprising the world propagated as the Arab Spring. No, it's not the Arab Spring we call it the Revolution of Dignity."     Aya Chebbi, Tunisia Youth Representative

"Women where I come from have been fighting against patriarchy for more than a century. Fighting for social change, for democracy, for equality. So the world must respect our right to define our own struggles in our own context- the context that is affected by post-colonialism, Orientalism, and by Islamophobia."    Aya Chebbi

"I don't want anyone in this room to ever feel bad for me, cause I got 99 problems and (cerebral) palsy is just one."    Maysoon Zayid, Palestinian-American comedian, actor and disability advocate.

"A young girl was tussling with a boy. And the teacher came out and reprimanded the girl and said, "Little girls don't fight. They don't fuss. You're supposed to be quiet." And she walked away and then she came back to him and said, "Mr Teacher, please be careful how you talk to me, I want you to know in my country, a woman is President."    Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

"Gender violence and gender inequality is not just a women's issue. It's also a man's issue. It's not just because we have mothers, wives, sisters and daughters. We're here because it's a human rights issue and we are all human beings."     Farhan Akhtar, UN Women's Goodwill Ambassador, Bollywood star and founder of Men Against Rape and Discrimination (MARD).

"I just want to leave you with this thought: As we strive for Planet 50/50, do not leave women with disabilities behind."    Maysoon Zayid