"I accept this award with profound gratitude," she told the crowd, after being introduced by singers Jason DeRulo and Camila Cabello. "To be called an icon is a tremendous honor, but one that comes with a tremendous responsibility. Tonight I feel moved to speak for women whose voices have been stifled."
"I am one of those women," she continued. "Women who have been gagged, both literally and emotionally. Women who have been abused. Women who have been intimated. Women who have lived in fear. I stand with you. You are my sisters."
Her speech was met with continuous applause from many men and women in the crowd. She described looking forward to a hopeful future for all women.
"Tonight I carry the hope that a new world is emerging," she said. "A world in which caring people — male as well as female — will no longer tolerate gender inequality. Women — our voices will be heard. We will be heard when we speak out for justice."
She delivered an impassioned plea for women to use their voices and speak up against injustices.
"Speak out for a spirit that crosses all borders, recognizes the dignity of all people and affirms the beauty of all faiths," she said. "Speak out for acts of true charity, small and large. Speak out for an all-embracing love because it's love that will heal our wounds. Love that will give us strength to come to one another's aid."
She thanked her fans and God and expressed her love for her 1-year-old son, Eissa. "Let's lift our voices. Let's start today and let the ever amazing love of God lead the way," she concluded.
In addition to her acceptance speech, Jackson also performed a collection of some of her greatest hits, including "Rhythm Nation" and "All for You," along with her 2018 song, "Made for Now."
Singer Missy Elliot paid tribute to the singer on Twitter, writing "Every award you get @JanetJackson you have WORKED for it & DESERVE it!!! COLLECT YOUR THING. You are a GLOBAL ICON and you & your fam have done so much for the CULTURE! That’s why you still INSPIRE many ppl through your music & style & performance 40 YRS LATER!"
Jackson has spoken about gender discrimination before. At the 2018 Global Citizen Festival, she described abuses of power she’s been subjected to.
"Like millions of other women out there, I know about bullying," she told the crowd. "I know about verbal abuse. I know about physical abuse. I know about abuse of authority."
"I’m sick, I’m repulsed, I’m infuriated by the double standards that continue to treat women as second-class citizens," she continued. "Enough injustice. Enough bigotry. Mistreatment and mindless prejudice has to stop — and stop now. Equality is our demand. Action is our answer."
Jackson later posted an image on Instagram from the MTV European Music Awards, expressing her thanks for the award.
She also shared an image alongside Cabello, who also had great success, taking home four awards.