Liling Tan learns Spanish to cover women breaking barriers in diplomacy

Digital Originals

¡Saludos! For part three of our web series on U.N. languages, Liling Tan tries her hand at a news story in Español! Follow her as she dives into another new language, looking into the Latin women helping to break the glass ceiling in politics and diplomacy.

Colombia Ambassador to the U.N. Maria-Emma Mejia is one of a growing number of female ambassadors to the United Nations, at a time when the role of women in diplomacy is increasingly in the spotlight.

“The role of a female ambassador or a woman in a leadership role in the United Nations is fundamental, whether they are representing a country, within the U.N. system itself, or agencies or programmes, because that is the world,” Mejia said. “What we reflect is that 51 percent of the world today is composed of women. Women who already go to school, to university, who now have more rights. One way or another, we matter.”

Mejia is among women breaking barriers in Colombia. In this election year, there have been several female candidates for both the presidency and the vice-presidency. But there is still a long way to go.

“The field of politics is still very ‘male dominated,’ as English speakers would say. It’s still a man’s world, no? And I believe us, women, need to have a lot of perseverance and really insist on breaking those barriers,” Mejia said. “Women are also breaking barriers within the U.N. The Secretary General Antonio Guterres in January announced that 50 percent of all senior positions were held by women.”

The goal is reach parity at all levels of the U.N., and around the world. Helping him in that endeavor, is U.N. Women.

“I want to believe that the creation of U.N. Women has not only allowed U.N. Women to invite civil society, governments, the private sector to reflect on how much more the world would gain in social conditions, in peace, in human rights and in the economy too, if women had their rightful place,” U.N. Women Director Maria-Noel Vaeza said.

U.N. Women is working with governments around the world, including China.

Vaeza said China’s president Xi Jinping has played a very important role in their partnership, championing gender equality at home and abroad, under the Beijing platform for Action.

“And for us, China is a strategic ally, not only to work in China, but to work in the world world because China has very important influence in the world,” Vaeza said.

The U.N.’s push for gender equality also extends from governments into the private sector, where U.N. Women says only one in ten CEOs are women.