Hollywood star Rami Malek has called on men to rectify past mistakes and empower women of the future.
“I think we can all agree that there is no shortage of hope and aspiration that women have,” he said. “The struggle is the denial of quality, opportunity and dignity that men have put up, obstacles that men have created, and it is on us to tear those obstacles down.”
Ahead of the reading, Malek said: “She published it in January of this year and I chose it because I think it speaks to acknowledging the pain of experience while looking forwards towards the opportunity and possibility that a new day and the future can hold, and I must express what a privilege it is to be here celebrating women, especially on International Women's Day.
“I know there’s no deficit of dreams, inspiration or aspiration in this room or in your gender. I’m not reading this poem to preach to you but rather to acknowledge how my gender has obstructed that, and I hope that the work that is starting to be done ... leads us to a much brighter and more equal tomorrow.”
Scroll through the gallery below to see Expo 2020 Dubai's Women's Pavilion:
The ceremony kicked off to a rapturous start with a stirring rendition of Michael Jackson’s Will You Be There belted out by a live choir who raised Al Wasl roof with lungs of steel.
It was a sign of things to come.
A succession of rousing speeches from industry leaders was met by cheers from the crowd, while a series of powerful performances from poets and dancers drove the message home.
President of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, and managing director for Expo 2020 Reem Al Hashimi, outlined the successes of the Women’s Pavilion, while Cyrille Vigneron, chief executive and president of Cartier, also called for men to take a stand against inequality.
Vigneron said: “In a few days, this Expo will end and will have reached more than 20 million visitors.
“About 120 conferences have taken place [at the Women’s Pavilion] and each and every day has been full, but 95 per cent of the audience were women.
“Where were the men? I call on each and every man for action because each and every man should feel responsible for women’s empowerment.
“It has to come and it has to come now. It cannot happen without us.”
He also called for changes in family dynamics and said that his own father “couldn’t fry an egg”.
“The gender gap starts at home,” he said. “You women need to stop spoiling your sons and teaching your daughters to serve.
“The other part is a call to fathers and leaders to change the stereotype that goes with that and become role models.”
Al Hashimi spoke about the lasting legacy that the Women’s Pavilion leaves in the UAE and around the world.
“After five months of sharing stories with one another, I can stand here today proudly and say when women thrive, humanity thrives,” she said.
“The next Expo in Osaka in 2025 is considering its very own Women’s Pavilion in a testament of our achievements here in Dubai.
“We aim to enshrine true gender equality at the heart of every story.”