UN Day for Women's Rights and International Peace

08 March 2009

International Women’s Day
Message of UNFPA Executive Director, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid


Today on International Women’s Day, let us unite to end violence against women and girls.

Whether it is human trafficking, domestic violence, crimes committed in the name of honour or passion, child marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting, or sexual violence, which in many conflict situations has reached alarming proportions, violence against women and girls constitutes a shameful crime that is too often shrouded in silence and too seldom punished.

Today, we call on all political leaders, community leaders and religious leaders to stand up against the violence to which women and girls are subjected. We call for public dialogue and open debate. We urge authorities in all countries to enact and enforce laws to bring justice to offenders, and to provide health services and social support to survivors.

We pay tribute to the women who have provided leadership on this issue and we urge more men and boys to use their influence for positive change.

Together, we can change social norms and attitudes that condone discrimination and violence against women and girls. Together, we can strengthen legal systems, access to justice and the rule of law for protecting and upholding human rights. Together, we can provide social support and health services to survivors. We need to guarantee the right to sexual and reproductive health, and provide information and services for family planning, safe motherhood and HIV prevention.

Violence against women and girls is not a women’s issue—it is an issue that concerns and diminishes us all. No custom, tradition or religion can justify cruel and degrading treatment.

Today, let us stand in solidarity with women and girls who deserve to live in dignity, free of fear and shame. Let us champion zero tolerance of violence against women and girls in our homes, schools, places of work and worship, our communities and nations. It is time for men and women, and boys and girls to work together to end these shameful violations of human rights.

Today and everyday, UNFPA, as part of the United Nations, will support country efforts to eliminate violence against women and girls, and to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality and reproductive health and rights.

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