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Message from Nane Annan
International Women’s Day, 8 March 2003

Dear friends,

   Today, in honour of International Women’s Day, we celebrate everything women bring to the world and everything young girls represent. I am delighted to be here on the Cyberschoolbus to celebrate with you. Since my husband became Secretary-General, I have travelled all over the world and met the most extraordinary women at every level of society – ministers, community leaders, mothers, who in extremely difficult circumstances have come together for the well-being of their children. Their spirit was described beautifully by a woman living in the slums of Lahore, Pakistan, who said: “Women think they are like a flower bud, but really they are a mountain. We can do anything with our lives.”

   This woman and others like her are paving the way for young girls growing up, inspiring them as they have inspired me. I have met these girls, too, all over the world. Last May, at a Special Session on Children at the United Nations, two young persons addressed the General Assembly for the first time and told the world leaders: “We are not the source of problems; we are the required resources to solve them. We are not expenses; we are investments. We are not just young people; we are citizens of the world.” The two young persons happened to be girls!

   Yet in much of the world, women still face discrimination. In some places they cannot vote, own land or make key decisions that affect their lives. Over 115 million children are not in school and over half of them are girls. You can learn about some of the reasons why girls are not in school right here on the Cyberschoolbus.

   In the year 2000 the leaders of the world came together at the United Nations to set specific goals for progress in the world. One of them was to ensure that by the year 2015, all boys and girls will be able to complete primary schooling. But the empowerment of women is not only a goal in itself; it is critical to achieving all the other Millennium Development Goals, such as fighting poverty and HIV/AIDS. When women are fully involved, the benefits can be seen immediately: families are healthier and better fed; their family income and savings go up.

   As we celebrate International Women’s Day – and Women’s History Month during March – it is very important to remember that we are one human family. Because it is not men versus women, or girls versus boys, it is what we can achieve together. The world needs our joint efforts.

   Let’s make that dream possible. I encourage you to dream and work hard to make your dream come true. You never know what will happen in life but let what you have inside yourselves determine your path. Keep your eyes and ears open, be curious and prepare yourselves. One day your dream will be there right in front of you and you will have to catch it in flight!

   I would love to hear from you about women or girls who have inspired you. You can write to me about who they are and how they have inspired you. We will share some of your letters on the Cyberschoolbus.