International Women's Day

8 March 2006
Author: UNFPA

Today, on International Women’s Day, I join others in paying tribute to women. Progress for women is progress for all. No enduring solutions to society’s most pressing problems can be found without the full empowerment and participation of women.

Women are not only life givers. They are peace builders and must play a full role in conflict resolution and recovery. They are workers, even though their work is often undervalued and underpaid. They are the backbone of families, communities and society, even though their multiple roles are not often recognized or appreciated. Yes, women are different from men but this difference should be celebrated along with the recognition that all human beings are created equal in dignity and rights and should be afforded equal opportunity and legal protection.

Much progress has been made over the years for the advancement of women and this past year was no exception. In Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was elected President, the first female President in Africa. In Germany, Angela Merkel was elected as the nation’s first female Chancellor. And in Chile, citizens elected their first woman President, Michelle Bachelet. These victories represent important steps forward but we still have a long way to go before we reach gender parity in the political decision making levels. Today only 16 per cent of legislators worldwide are women.

Today I call for greater action to involve women in decision-making at all levels—from the top of government and the United Nations down to the basic unit of society, the family, and foremost in matters related to their own lives.

Research shows that while much progress has been made, millions of women are still denied the opportunity to make even the most basic decisions about marriage and childbearing. At September’s World Summit, world leaders agreed to achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015 as critical for the attainment of gender equality and the other Millennium Development Goals to improve maternal health, reduce child mortality, combat HIV/AIDS, and reduce poverty. Reproductive health and rights are fundamental to women’s empowerment.

Today, on International Women’s Day, I would like to encourage greater dialogue within societies, communities and families, between women and men and between young and old. We need to talk to each other and find ways to advance mutual respect, mutual communication and mutual responsibility. Gender equality should be inscribed into national law and translated into investments in national budgets. UNFPA is committed to promoting sexual and reproductive health, reproductive rights, women’s empowerment, male involvement and responsibility, and gender equality. Today we salute the women and men who are working towards these worthy goals.