On International Women&#39s Day, UN urges more action to achieve gender equality

8 March 2015 – To mark International Women’s Day today, senior United Nations officials highlighted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a historic roadmap signed by 189 governments 20 years ago that set the agenda for realizing women’s rights.
They noted that while much has been achieved since then in areas such as education, healthcare and the economy, many serious gaps remain, stressing that the UN will be in the forefront of efforts to highlight gender equality, holding a number of major events in the next week, including an International Women’s Day march from UN Headquarters to New York’s Times Square.
In addition, the annual, two-week long session of the Commission on the Status of Women, opens tomorrow, on 9 March, and will bring representatives of UN Member States, civil society groups and UN entities together to take stock of where women stand today.
&#8220We must acknowledge that the gains have been too slow and uneven, and that we must do far more to accelerate progress everywhere,&#8221 said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.
Mr. Ban said that the Beijing Conference took place amid the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, which had prompted deserved attention to rape and other war crimes there against civilians.
&#8220Two decades later, with girls as young as seven not only targeted but used as weapons by violent extremists, it would be easy to lose heart about he value of international gatherings,&#8221 he said, urging the world to come together in response to the targeting of women and girls by violent extremists.
&#8220From Nigeria and Somalia to Iraq and Syria, the bodies women have been transformed into battlegrounds,&#8221 he said. &#8220Women have been attacked for trying to exercise their right to education and basic services; they have been raped and turned into sex slaves; they have been given as prizes to fighters, or traded among extremist groups in trafficking networks.&#8221
He said outrage needed to be translated into meaningful action and, as women and girls are often the first targets of attack, their rights had to be at the centre of the global strategy to address the staggering and growing challenge.
Noting also that women living in societies at peace remained targets of domestic abuse, female genital mutilation and other forms of violence that traumatise individuals and damage whole societies.
&#8220Discrimination remains a thick barrier that must be shattered,&#8221 Mr. Ban said. &#8220We need to expand opportunities in politics, business and beyond.&#8221
Mr. Ban’s call far action was echoed by the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who said the world remained far away from achieving equality between men and women, boys and girls.
&#8220Not one single country has achieved equality,&#8221 she said. &#8220it is even more urgent than ever that we define &#8211 and stick to &#8211 a time frame [for doing so].&#8221
Not enough changed in the 20 years since Beijing, she said, particularly in least-developed countries.
&#8220In Africa, 70 per cent of crop production depends on women yet women still own only two per cent of the land&#8221 she said. &#8220Women need change and humanity needs change. This we can do together; women and girls, men and boys, young and old, rich and poor.&#8221
Pointing out the &#8220overwhelming&#8221 benefits that equality can bring, such as economic growth, poverty reduction, health status improvements and increased resilience to environmental and humanitarian crises, she stressed the importance of empowering women to empower humanity.
&#8220We call on countries to ‘step it up’ for gender equality, with substantive progress by 2020. Our aim is to reach ‘Planet 50:50’ before 2030,&#8221 she said.
Joining Mr. Ban and Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka in calling for change was the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who called for participation of women in all discussion of strategic responses to extremist violence, discrimination and to deprivation of all kinds.
&#8220States can seize this opportunity to go beyond li[-service and towards gender equality &#8211 genuinely challenging and dismantling the power structures and dynamics which perpetuate discrimination against women,&#8221 he said. &#8220All of us, together: men, women, boys, girls &#8211 we all have to do this to eradicate gender discrimination. Let us make it happen.&#8221
In his message to mark the Day, the President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Martin Sajdik (Austria) also highlighted the importance of having the will to see pledges through.
&#8220The Post-2015 Development Agenda can only be realized if we implement our commitments to promoting gender equality,&#8221 he said.