Full Transcript of Emma Watson's 2016 U.N. Speech on Gender Equality

Celebrating the HeForShe Global Campaign

Emma Watson, pictured at the 'Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology' Costume Institute Gala, gave a speech at the UN in September 2016 about gender equality within higher education and the problem of rape culture on college campuses.
Emma Watson attends the 'Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology' Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2016 in New York City.

Mike Coppola / Getty Images

Actress Emma Watson, a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, has used her fame and activism to shine a spotlight on gender inequality and sexual assault at universities and colleges around the world. In September 2016, the "Harry Potter" star delivered a speech about the gender double standards that many women encounter when they study and work at universities. 

This address was a followup to a speech she made two years earlier after launching a gender equality initiative called HeForShe at the U.N. headquarters in New York. Then, she focused on global gender inequality and the role that men and boys must play to fight for justice for girls and women. Her 2016 speech echoed these concerns while specifically focusing on sexism in academia.

Speaking Out for Women

A feminist, Emma Watson used her September 20, 2016, appearance at the U.N. to announce the publication of the first HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10 University Parity Report. It documents the pervasiveness of gender inequality across the globe and the commitment 10 university presidents made to fight this problem.

During her speech, Watson linked the gender disparities on college campuses to the widespread problem of sexual violence that many women experience while pursuing higher education. She said:

Thank you all for being here for this important moment. These men from all over the world have decided to make gender equality a priority in their lives and in their universities. Thank you for making this commitment.
I graduated from university four years ago. I had always dreamed of going and I know how fortunate I am to have had the opportunity to do so. Brown [University] became my home, my community, and I took the ideas and the experiences I had there into all of my social interactions, into my workplace, into my politics, into all aspects of my life. I know that my university experience shaped who I am, and of course, it does for many people.
But what if our experience at university shows us that women don't belong in leadership? What if it shows us that, yes, women can study, but they shouldn't lead a seminar? What if, as still in many places around the world, it tells us that women don't belong there at all? What if, as is the case in far too many universities, we are given the message that sexual violence isn't actually a form of violence?
But we know that if you change students' experiences so they have different expectations of the world around them, expectations of equality, society will change. As we leave home for the first time to study at the places that we have worked so hard to get, we must not see or experience double standards. We need to see equal respect, leadership, and pay.
The university experience must tell women that their brain power is valued, and not just that, but that they belong among the leadership of the university itself. And so importantly, right now, the experience must make it clear that the safety of women, minorities, and anyone who may be vulnerable is a right and not a privilege. A right that will be respected by a community that believes and supports survivors. And that recognizes that when one person's safety is violated, everyone feels that their own safety is violated. A university should be a place of refuge that takes action against all forms of violence.
That's why we believe that students should leave university believing in, striving for, and expecting societies of true equality. Societies of true equality in every sense, and that universities have the power to be a vital catalyst for that change.
Our ten impact champions have made this commitment and with their work we know they will inspire students and other universities and schools across the world to do better. I'm delighted to introduce this report and our progress, and I'm eager to hear what's next. Thank you so much.

Reaction to Watson's Speech

Emma Watson's 2016 U.N. speech on gender equality on college campuses has netted more than 600,000 YouTube views. In addition, her words garnered headlines from publications such as Fortune, Vogue, and Elle.

Since the actress, a Brown University graduate, gave her speech, new challenges have emerged. In 2016, Watson was hopeful that the United States would elect its first female president. Instead, voters elected Donald Trump, who appointed Betsy DeVos as his education secretary. DeVos has overhauled how colleges respond to sexual assault claims, making procedures more difficult for victims, her critics argue. They say the proposed changes to Obama-era educational policies will make women more vulnerable on college campuses.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Cole, Nicki Lisa, Ph.D. "Full Transcript of Emma Watson's 2016 U.N. Speech on Gender Equality." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/full-transcript-of-emma-watsons-un-speech-4109625. Cole, Nicki Lisa, Ph.D. (2023, April 5). Full Transcript of Emma Watson's 2016 U.N. Speech on Gender Equality. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/full-transcript-of-emma-watsons-un-speech-4109625 Cole, Nicki Lisa, Ph.D. "Full Transcript of Emma Watson's 2016 U.N. Speech on Gender Equality." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/full-transcript-of-emma-watsons-un-speech-4109625 (accessed June 5, 2023).