Statement by Katalin Novák at the 67th UN Commission on the Status of Women - New York
“A war always - always! - is the defeat of humanity. There are no just wars: they do not exist!”
These sentences are quotes from Pope Francis, who will soon be visiting us in Budapest.
Dear President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am Katalin Novák, President of Hungary. The first elected woman president in my country. In this capacity, I am addressing you for the first time, but I have been active participant of CSW for almost a decade.
I represent Hungary, a direct neighbour to the war hit Ukraine. I speak for the Hungarian nation in Hungary and beyond our borders, 150 thousand of whom live on the territory of Ukraine, being members of the Hungarian ethnic community.
We have been living in the shadow of a war for a year now, and we can’t see the end yet. The suffering affects families on the first place: mothers, who lose their husbands and sons, fathers, who go to the battlefield with their just-grown-up
sons, children, who lose the stability and the perspective for the future. Families fall apart, lose their homes, are forced to seek refuge. “There are no just wars” – said the Holy Father. There is no loss of life justified by the war – I add.
Here, at the United Nations, I reiterate our firm commitment to peace. We want peace! We, Christians, we, Hungarians, we, mothers, do not want to feed this war but we want to end it!
I came here today to talk about family. In the last ten years, I have heard at CSW many inspiring interventions about the empowerment of women, about the challenges girls and women face in different parts of the world. We spoke about
education, social care, gender pay gap, equal rights and opportunities, good and bad practices.
My only message to you today is that we cannot support women effectively if we don’t take into account the fact that most of them (most of us) will be once or are already mothers. Women are given the privilege to give birth, to
breastfeed, to nurture their babies. Privilege that most of the women would like to enjoy.
I urge ourselves to enable girls and women around the world to make their own decisions. Not to force them to choose between motherhood and professional career. To lead by good example. To speak sincerely about the beauties and difficulties of being a working mother.
My husband and I raise three children.
I know that we can be keen on our jobs, we can decide over billions of dollars, we can command armies, we can oversee the biggest organisations, we can govern states, still we play the most important and truly indispensable role in
our families. There and only there are we irreplaceable.
Let us admit: in the Western world, women today have similar chance for success as men. In terms of education, career, in terms of progress in employment. The real difference is giving or not giving birth.
That is why we must support mothers and the share of parental responsibilities.
Our duty is to give young people the freedom to decide if and when to start a family and if and how many children to have.
In Hungary, over 6% of the state budget goes for family support. Our principle is that all public measures must take the interests of families first and foremost into account. We have adopted a new approach: those who have a child or
children should be better off financially than those who give up on having an own family.
In Hungary, mothers with at least four children have a life-long exemption from personal income tax paying, we write-off the student loans of mothers, have housing subsidies, free higher education, grandparental leave or a large network of nurseries. We support childbearing and responsible child raising.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today the traditional family, the very foundation of Judeo-Christian life and culture, is under attack. Unprecedented forces are at work to tear families apart, destroy communities and discourage young people from having children.
Families composed of mother, father and children are being targeted, many people look down on those who find fulfilment in raising children, and many people see family life as outdated. But the core values of our lives do not change over time.
We must protect the family and family values. Many are attacking the Hungarian family-centred model and want to prevent us from deciding for ourselves how to bring up our children. We often have the feeling that those who have not
undertaken to have a child of their own want to raise our children.
But we are determined in this fight. We will defend our children, our culture, our tradition, and our freedom, and we will not compromise.
To this end, we await our brothers and sisters, all sober-minded and well meaning allies.
Thank you for your attention.