Family of Women

08 May 2003

Good evening.

It is wonderful to be here in Minneapolis/St. Paul for the first time. It truly gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you to the 'Family of Woman' exhibition. This event would not have been possible in the Twin Cities without the tireless efforts of Vicki Cox, who is a Board member of the United States Committee for the United Nations Population Fund and Chair of the Twin Cities Host Committee. On behalf of UNFPA, I thank her for assembling such a distinguished and caring group of people tonight. To both Vicki and David, my personal thanks.

My gratitude also goes to the US Committee for UNFPA, represented by its dynamic Board of Directors and its President, Peter Purdy. Special recognition also goes to Cheryl Stanley, the Vice-President of the US Committee, and to its staff. They transformed 'Family of Woman' from an exhibit to a comprehensive programme. With these compelling photos as the centrepiece, the US Committee brings Americans face to face with the people that UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, serves. The exhibit and related events expand the impact of the US Committee's work and it provides opportunities for the American public to understand the struggles and triumphs of the women and families that UNFPA serves.

It is also my great pleasure to thank all those American citizens who have shown their generosity and compassion in response to this effort and to a compatible grass-roots movement called the 34 Million Friends of UNFPA. Through that movement, more than 100,000 Americans have contributed over $1 million to support the work of UNFPA. Their contribution speaks for itself -- these Americans act as active members of the 'Family of Woman'.

Special appreciation is also due to the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, and Mrs. Nane Annan for their patronage of this important exhibition.

Ladies and gentlemen, friends of UNFPA,

This exhibition invites you to enter the lives of women and families in the developing world, to explore their existence, and to understand the many challenges that threaten their lives. As you tour it, I want you to remember that you are looking at the faces of women and families that UNFPA supports.

The work we support in about 150 countries around the world is about human rights, and, very often, about life and death. Each and every minute, one woman dies because she did not get the health care she needed during pregnancy and the birth of her child. Every minute, 156 underage girls are married. Every minute, 40 teenage girls become pregnant before their bodies and minds are fully mature. In addition, every minute, 5 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are newly infected with HIV/AIDS, the majority of them young women. The faces you see in these photos are some of these women and girls.

Although the issues of reproductive health and women's rights can be debated, the realities speak for themselves and demand an urgent response. For three decades, UNFPA has been there with a sensitive response that respects local cultures and respects international human rights.

The services we promote, which many of us take for granted, include voluntary family planning, care during pregnancy and birth to ensure safe motherhood and healthy babies, the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and the prevention of HIV/AIDS, as well as prevention of violence against women. The spread of AIDS, in particular, demonstrates the need for greater commitment to reproductive health and the empowerment of women and girls so they can protect themselves from infection.

The US Committee for UNFPA has been working very hard to reach out to the American public and opinion makers in support of the Fund.

We truly need the support of the American public. That is why I am very pleased that this exhibition will travel to five other cities across the United States, so that people can see the work we do and the people we work for. We also need the partnership and support of the American Government to help us save women's lives and protect their health.

A week ago today in New York, we celebrated the first $1 million that has arrived for UNFPA from the grass-roots 34 Million Friends Campaign. It was a wonderful celebration. We certainly need, and appreciate the money. In addition, we will certainly put it to good use. The spontaneous outpouring of support is extremely gratifying for us because it validates our work and reminds us of just how deeply people care about the issues and ideals we support. In essence, we help countries formulate population policies that will support the choices people make and promote sustainable development. We support the right of individuals to make their own decisions regarding the number, timing and spacing of their children. We support the rights of women and men as equal members of the human family. And we acknowledge that we all share the same planet and that we are all interconnected. We must remember that we do not inherit the Earth from our parents, but we borrow it from our children and grandchildren.

I would like to stress to all of you here tonight that we count you among friends of UNFPA. And we thank you very much for your support. Together, we can strengthen the human family -- the family of woman -- so that each and every woman has legitimate hope for a healthy and prosperous future where her dreams are realized and her rights fully respected.

Thank you.

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