Note to Correspondents



Event to Be Addressed by Laura Bush, First Lady of United States

On Friday 8 March, the United Nations will observe International Women's Day with a televised event highlighting the status of women and girls in Afghanistan entitled "Afghan Women Today: Realities and Opportunities". The event will feature addresses by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, and Laura Bush, the First Lady of the United States. The President of the 56th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Han Seung-soo, and the President of the Security Council, H.E. Mr. Ole Peter Kolby, will also address the opening ceremony. Her Majesty Queen Noor will participate in the panel discussion following the opening ceremony. The event will take place in Conference Room 2 of Headquarters from 10 a.m. to 11.30 a.m.

This year's International Women's Day, organized by the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women and the Department of Public Information (DPI), in collaboration with the United Nations Inter-Agency Network of Women and Gender Equality and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), will be an occasion to celebrate the indomitable spirit, heroism and endurance of Afghan women and show solidarity with them and the commitment of the world community to their cause. The event will also focus on the needs of Afghan women and girls and suggest ways in which they can contribute to consolidating peace, and rebuilding and reconstructing Afghan society.

The event will open with the screening of a short video on Afghan women produced by the Department of Public Information. The programme which will be moderated by Shashi Tharoor, Interim Head of DPI, will feature the following speakers:

Opening Ceremony

Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations
Han Seung-soo (Republic of Korea), President of the 56th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Ole Peter Kolby (Norway), President of the Security Council
Laura Bush, First Lady of the United States
Angela E.V. King, Assistant Secretary-General, Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women

Panel Discussion

Her Majesty Queen Noor
Sima Wali, President, Refugee Women in Development, Delegate to the
United Nations Peace Talks on Afghanistan, Chief Organizer of the Afghan Women's Summit for Democracy

Othman Jerandi (Tunisia), Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women
Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
Julia Taft, Assistant Administrator and Director, Bureau for Crisis
Prevention and Recovery, United Nations Development Progamme (UNDP)

After the Taliban's rise to power in Afghanistan, women and girls were systematically discriminated against and marginalized. Their access to education, health care facilities and employment were severely restricted. Women's removal from the public space also meant that women could not play any role in the political process and were excluded from virtually all aspects of public life.

The United Nations has been deeply involved in the situation in Afghanistan for many years. In particular, the situation of women and girls has remained under the intense scrutiny of the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Commission on Human Rights, the Commission on the Status of Women and other United Nations bodies. For more information, please refer to the report of the Secretary-General to the 46th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, entitled "Discrimination against women and girls in Afghanistan" (E/CN.6/2002/5 of 28 January).

On 30 January, at its 26th session, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women issued a statement of solidarity and support for Afghan women, emphasizing that the participation of Afghan women as full and equal partners with men is essential for the reconstruction and development of their country.

In January, Hamid Karzai, the Head of the Interim Administration, demonstrated his support for women's rights by signing the "Declaration of the Essential Rights of Afghan Women", which affirmed the right to equality between men and women. Thus, the restoration of the rightful role of Afghan women in society has begun. Two women, Sima Samar and Suhaila Siddiq, are respectively heading the Ministry of Women's Affairs and the Ministry of Public Health in the Interim Administration. Ms. Samar is also one of the five Vice-Presidents of the Interim Administration. She will send a message to the 8 March event.

International Women's Day is an occasion marked by women's groups around the world. This date is also commemorated by the United Nations and is designated in many countries as a national holiday. When women on all continents, often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences come together to celebrate their Day, they can look back to a tradition that represents at least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development.

Members of delegations, media, accredited non-governmental organization representatives and Secretariat staff are invited to attend the event. A live Web cast of the event can be accessed at

For more information on the event "Afghan Women Today: Realities and Opportunities", contact Paul Hoeffel, tel.: (212) 963-8070, fax: (212) 963-6914, e-mail: For United Nations television coverage please call 963-7650, fax: 963-3860. For media accreditation, please call 963-6934, fax: 963-4642.

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