New York — Actor-producer Farhan Akhtar performed at a star-studded event here organized by the UN’s body on women empowerment where leaders made a clarion call to end gender inequality by the year 2030.

The event, “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality,” was a UN Women-hosted celebration for the 20th anniversary of the historic Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.

It was attended by Liberia President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

The event saw electrifying performances that brought the message home and the audience to their feet, including a song and poem by Akhtar, UN Women’s goodwill ambassador and founder of Men Against Rape and Discrimination (MARD).

“Gender violence and gender inequality is not just a women’s issue. It’s also a man’s issue. It’s not just because we have mothers, wives, sisters and daughters. We’re here because it’s a human rights issue and we are all human beings,” he said in a message.

Akhtar, 41, had also attended the U.S. premiere of the documentary “India’s Daughter” in the city Mar. 9 with his wife Adhuna. Following the screening, he had posted on Twitter that he humbly appeals to the concerned ministry that they lift the ban on this film. “Its only effect is that of introspection.”

Akhtar, who also met the UN chief and head of UN Women, tweeted that he “represents millions of Indian men who are concerned about gender equality.”

Other performers included acclaimed singer and actress Jill Scott, R&B artist Melanie Fiona and Grammy-nominated duo Les Nubians, along with comedian and actress Maysoon Zayid.

The event, attended by about 2,000 people, commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing that set the groundbreaking agenda for women’s rights in 1995, UN Women said in a statement.

Speakers, including Academy Award winner Patricia Arquette, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and global philanthropist Melinda Gates, called for bolder actions from governments and louder mobilization from citizens to move forward the agenda on women’s rights and gender equality.

“Women’s and girls’ voices too often go unheard, their talents and initiative unused. This is to the detriment of the world’s prosperity and security,” the UN secretary-general said.

“Too often, leaders have used women to advance power. I believe we must use power to advance women.”

Clinton said that 20 years ago, “declaring that women’s rights are human rights was considered groundbreaking — thankfully it’s now routine. I see a future where we unlock the vast potential for women. To realize this vision, we’ll have to step it up — step up our commitment to finishing this, the great unfinished business of the 21st century.”

Emphasizing the leitmotif of the evening, UN Women executive director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka underlined the benefits of a gender-equal society, and the need for immediate concerted action.

Arquette issued a strong call to close the gender pay gap and said, “We need action to see change. Who is responsible for this change? You are. I am. We are voters. We make 87 percent of the purchasing decisions. We have the power of our purse to make sure the companies we buy from treat their employees fairly,” she said. 

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