United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called on countries to adopt special measures and quotas to advance women's equal participation.
"I call on countries, companies and institutions to adopt special measures and quotas to advance women's equal participation and achieve rapid change," the UN chief said in his message for International Women's Day.
Guterres warned that the COVID-19 pandemic has erased decades of progress toward gender equality.
"From high job losses to exploding burdens of unpaid care, from disrupted schooling to an escalating crisis of domestic violence and exploitation, women's lives have been upended and their rights eroded," he said.
The consequences will far outlast the pandemic, warned the secretary-general.
He noted that that women are "the essential workers keeping people alive and holding economies, communities and families together."
"They are among the leaders who have kept prevalence rates lower, and countries on track for recovery," said the UN chief.
Noting that this year's International Women's Day highlights the transformative power of women's equal participation, the secretary-general said that "we are seeing it ourselves at the United Nations, where I am proud that we have achieved gender parity in UN leadership posts for the first time in history."
The top UN official said that "when women lead in government, we see bigger investments in social protection and greater inroads against poverty."
"When women are in parliament, countries adopt more stringent climate change policies," he continued. "When women are at the peace table, agreements are more enduring."
"It is time to build an equal future. This is job for everyone -- and for the benefit of everyone," said the secretary-general.