‘Women are determining the world’: the Commonwealth Secretary-General celebrates women leaders 

15 March 2024
Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, at the International Womens Day

In March, leaders gathered in London to highlight the crucial role women play in leadership and decision-making at a time when over half of the world’s population is going to the polls. In her keynote address, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, spoke about a new world reality with women taking on more leadership roles. 

She is the sixth Secretary-General and the first woman to hold the post. The Commonwealth Secretary-General shared in her address that she has been a series of ‘firsts’ in her life, but by pioneering these roles, it paves the way for other women to follow.

She also highlighted the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, and the UN’s Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, as being trailblazers. 

Her keynote reflected on the event’s theme, ‘Lead With Her: Inclusive Futures’. The Commonwealth Secretary-General said: 

"The evidence is all around us: from the classroom to the boardroom, from courtrooms to parliaments, women are rising: not just in numbers, but in influence, in power, and in the ability to shape the world around them.

"In 1960, the Commonwealth was blessed by the first woman in the world to be elected Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka. Today, from Africa and the Caribbean to Asia and the Pacific, women are not only leading Commonwealth countries, but they are also changing the world: and in doing so, they are redefining what it means to be a leader."

The Commonwealth Secretary-General noted that the World Trade Organisation, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the International Monetary Fund and UNESCO are all led by women.

Commonwealth Secretary-General
Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, delivers her keynote address at the Duke Corporate Education event

Duke Corporate Education, a part of Duke University, organised the event to commemorate International Women’s Day, which was hosted in partnership with the International Women's Forum UK. The event explored how women's priorities influence the political choices that make a practical difference in the world and also discussed the importance of greater inclusion in the political sphere.

The event, held on 13 March, brought together hundreds of women leaders and allies, including policymakers, business leaders, academics, and representatives from various non-governmental organisations.

While there has been significant progress globally, there remains work to be done to achieve a world where all women can achieve equality.  

Secretary-General Scotland also spoke about the Commonwealth’s work that has had a significant impact on the empowerment of women and girls globally. She highlighted the Commonwealth Says NO MORE initiative, the first pan-Commonwealth platform to address domestic and sexual violence.  

She also shared progress from the Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting held in 2023, where ministers agreed on initiatives and legislation designed to strengthen gender equality.

Ensuring greater gender equality is at the heart of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s work, as gender is one of the cross-cutting aspects of the organisation’s latest Strategic Plan.

In addition, there is a Commonwealth Women’s Forum at each Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting to explore the critical challenges and opportunities in advancing gender equality in the 56 member states.

Consultations and planning are already advanced for this year’s CHOGM, which will be held in Samoa. Currently, members of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Gender team are participating in the Commission on the Status of Women, a summit in New York hosted by the United Nations.

Media contact

  • Ijeoma Onyeator  Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat

  • E-mail