Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Remarks at launch of Call to Action on Demographic Issues in the Sahel Region

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Niamey (Niger), 06 November 2013

Good afternoon. Thank you for coming together today.

This call to action on demographic issues is based on sound statistics. But it is not about numbers. It is about people.

When we give women the education they deserve, society becomes stronger. When we protect women’s human rights, society becomes more just. And when we allow women to determine their own future, they will advance development for all.

Throughout my visit to the Sahel, I am calling on leaders to listen to girls and women. Hear their needs and concerns. Give women a voice in decision-making.

I also have a special message for the men: speak out for gender equality.

To benefit from the demographic dividend, we need many concrete steps. We need to invest in young people to unleash their full potential. We need better health care for women and girls. We need to increase access to family planning. We need to raise the marriage age. We need more girls in school. We need to address HIV/AIDS.

These steps are important – but they are not enough. We also need to change mindsets.

Women should be able to demand their rights. But I also want men to join this call. Help us create conditions where your daughters, your sisters and your wives have full equality. Help us create a society where women never have to fear violence at the hands of men. Help us create families where mothers and fathers decide together how many children they want to have. The time to do this is now.

I have full confidence that the men of Niger and the Sahel can support the women here, and that together you can open a new future.

The United Nations is your dedicated partner as you advance along this path to progress.

Thank you.