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InternationalWomen'sDay1997
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Special Event: Q&A

Teacher’s Notes

Why Women’s Day?

How It Happened

The Issues

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Why Women’s Day?

Why dedicate a day exclusively to the celebration of the world’s women?

The United Nations General Assembly, which is composed of delegates from all the member countries, mentioned two reasons: firstly, to recognize the fact that peace and social progress require the active participation and equality of women; secondly, to acknowledge the contribution of women to international peace and security.

For the women of the world, the Day's symbolism has a wider meaning: It is an occasion to review how far they have come in their struggle for equality, peace and development.

It has -- or it must have -- a wider significance for all of society. At the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, representatives of 189 different countries agreed that inequalities between women and men has serious consequences for the well-being of all people.

The final document issued by the conference (called the "Platform for Action") had this to say: "The advancement of women and the achievement of equality between women and men are a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice and should not be seen in isolation as a women's issue."

Until the rights and full potential of women are achieved, lasting solutions to the world's most serious social, economic and political problems are unlikely to be found.

But is there really inequality between men and women?

In one word, yes.

It is true, though, that recent decades have seen progress. Women's access to education and proper health care has increased; their participation in the paid labour force has grown; and legislation that promises equal opportunities for women and respect for their human rights has been adopted in many countries. The world now has a growing number of women as policy-makers.

However, nowhere in the world can women claim to have the same rights and opportunities as men. They continue to be among the poorest overall: the majority of the world's 1.3 billion absolute poor are women. On average, women receive between 30 and 40 per cent less pay than men earn for the same work. And everywhere women continue to be victims of violence, with rape and domestic violence listed as significant causes of disability and death among women of reproductive age worldwide.

More detail on these topics appears in "The Issues".

Discussion Questions

(Source: Division for the Advancement of Women, DPI, United Nations)
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