The women of the world want and deserve an equal future, free of stigma, stereotypes and violence; a sustainable, peaceful future, with equal rights and opportunities for all. To get there, the world needs women at all decision-making tables.

We must support all women in the front line of the fight against this pandemic; promote flexible labor agreements; and prioritize services to prevent gender-based domestic violence.

This year, the theme of International Women’s Day (8 March), “Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World,” welcomes the tremendous efforts of women and girls around the world to shape a future and a more equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and highlights the gaps that remain.

The full and effective participation and leadership of women in all walks of life drives progress for all. However, women are still underrepresented in public life and in decision-making, as revealed in the recent report by the UN Secretary-General. Women are Heads of State or Government in 22 countries and only 24.9% of national parliamentarians are women. At the current rate of progress, gender equality among heads of government will take another 130 years.

Women are also at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19, as frontline and healthcare workers, as scientists, doctors and caregivers, but globally they are paid 11% less than their counterparts male. An analysis of COVID-19 task forces from 87 countries found that only 3.5 percent of them had gender parity.

When women lead, we see positive results. Some of the most efficient and exemplary responses to the COVID-19 pandemic were led by women. And women, especially young women, are at the forefront of diverse and inclusive movements online and on the streets for social justice, climate change and equality in all parts of the world. However, women under the age of 30 represent less than 1% of parliamentarians worldwide.

For this reason, this year’s International Women’s Day is a rallying cry for the Equality Generation, to act for an equal future for all. We need a representation of women that reflects all women and girls in all their diversity and capacities, and in all cultural, social, economic and political situations. This is the only way we will achieve real social change that incorporates women into decision-making as equals and benefits us all.