We still have a long way to go, baby.

UNITED NATIONS –Prominent female politicians including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff joined voices Monday to demand a greater global political role for women.

“Despite notable progress, gender inequality persists,” Rousseff, who became Brazil’s first female president earlier this year, said at a high-level event held at the United Nations ahead of this week’s UN General Assembly.  “Women are still the ones who suffer the most from extreme poverty, illiteracy, poor healthcare systems, conflicts and sexual violence.” Rousseff noted that on Wednesday she would become the first woman in the history of the United Nations to open debate at the UN General Assembly.

“As someone who tried to be a president, it’s very encouraging to see those who actually ended up as a president,” Clinton joked at Monday’s event, in a reference to her unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2008. Despite a hard-fought campaign, Clinton failed to secure the nomination to be the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party, losing to Barack Obama, who is now her boss in the White House.

Monday’s event was organized by UN Women, a UN body that was established last year to promote female empowerment around the world.

Women make up less than 10 percent of world leaders, and globally less than one in five members of parliament is a woman, according to UN Women. Increasing gender equality and putting more women in leadership roles will promote economic development, said Michelle Bachelet, the head of UN Women and a former president of Chile.

“We now have data to show that countries with greater gender equality have higher gross national product per capita and that women’s leadership in the corporate sector results in improved business performance,” she said. The participation of women in this year’s wave of popular uprisings in the Middle East demonstrated that women are “determined to fight for democracy”, Bachelet added.

“The message is loud and clear: There is no turning back,” she said.

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