Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Remarks at Americans for UNFPA Gala for the Health and Dignity of Women

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, New York (USA), 08 October 2009

Americans for UNFPA President Anika Rahman,
Dr. Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA,
Board Members,
Distinguished Guests,
Distinguished Honorees,
Dear friends,

This Gala is about our honorees, and I want to start by congratulating them. Each has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to reproductive rights and reproductive health. These are key United Nations goals, and you are our treasured partners.

I also want to thank all the members of Americans for UNFPA. You are all champions of women. You know that women are central to the health, development and prosperity of any society – and you are acting to give meaning to that fact.

You have supported UNFPA in good times and in bad. The resources you raise save lives. Your moral and political backing is just as valuable.

Not everyone understands UNFPA as we do. We know the Fund helps to avert tragedies, such as unnecessary death in childbirth. We know that without UNFPA, many women suffering from fistula would be ostracized for life – or worse. We know that UNFPA provides the reproductive health services that should be available to all people.

But the sad fact is there are those who do not fully appreciate this work. That is where your advocacy comes in. You stand up for the needs of women who do not have the power to stand up for themselves.

Pregnancy and childbirth are inherently dangerous. Even a woman with access to the best possible services has no guarantee of an easy delivery, free of complications. But she and her baby are much, much more likely to survive. In Sweden, fewer than one in 17,000 women dies in childbirth. But in Sierra Leone, the number rises to one in eight.

What makes the difference is the care she receives. What makes the difference is giving priority to her health. What makes the difference between life and death is all of you here tonight, standing up for a woman's right to reproductive health care and backing your calls with funding.

So I thank you, sincerely, on behalf of UNFPA and the entire United Nations system.

We know that ensuring the health of women is a moral obligation of any society.

We know that without healthy women, we will never meet the Millennium Development Goals -- especially when it comes to reducing maternal mortality, the Goal where our progress has been slowest. Improving maternal health means improving national health systems. And that will benefit all people.

And finally we know that together, we can stop the unnecessary deaths, empower women and pave the way for a better future for all.

By keeping our promises to women, we will create a better future for the entire world.

Thank you.