The actor who built an immense global fan-base through her role as Hermione in the Harry Potter series has co-hosted a UN Women special event for the HeForShe campaign from the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The event aims to kick-start a global solidarity movement in support of women’s rights and full equality between women and men.
“I want men to take up this mantle. So their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice, but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too—reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so be a more true and complete version of themselves,” Ms. Watson said. You might be thinking who is this Harry Potter girl? And what is she doing up on stage at the UN. It’s a good question and trust me I have been asking myself the same thing. I don’t know if I am qualified to be here. All I know is that I care about this problem. And I want to make it better.
“Men—I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too. Because to date, I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society despite my needing his presence as a child as much as my mother’s.
“I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness unable to ask for help for fear it would make them look less "macho"—in fact in the UK suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20-49; eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease. I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality either.
“We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence. If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.
“Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong… It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals. If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by what we are—we can all be freer and this is what HeForShe is about. It’s about freedom.”
This is Ms. Watson’s first event at the United Nations and comes on the heels of her first visit as a UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador to Uruguay. Moderated by renowned CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer, the HeForShe event put men at the center of activism and dialogue to end persistent inequalities faced by women and girls around the world. Over the next 12 months, the campaign intends to mobilize one billion men and boys as advocates and agents of change for gender equality.
“We need boys and men working with us. HeForShe is a global solidarity movement to end gender inequality by 2030. The goal is to engage men and boys as advocates and agents of change in the effort to achieve equality. When women are empowered, the whole of humanity benefits,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.