8 March 2007

Message of the Secretary-General

MESSAGE ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
8 March 2007

I am happy and honoured to send you my warmest wishes on International Women’s Day – my first one as Secretary-General of the United Nations. I hope you will all come to know me as your representative and ally in the years ahead.

This day is an opportunity for all of us -- women and men -- to unite in a cause that embraces all humankind. Empowering women is not only a goal in itself. It is a condition for building better lives for everyone on the planet.

No one can dispute the evidence that this is so. And no one can gainsay the outcome of the 2005 World Summit, when leaders reaffirmed that gender equality and human rights for all are essential to advancing development, peace and security.

Yet we are still so very far from turning this understanding into universal practice. In almost all countries, women continue to be under-represented in decision-making positions. Women’s work continues to be undervalued, underpaid, or not paid at all. Out of more than 100 million children who are not in school, the majority are girls. Out of more than 800 million adults who cannot read, the majority are women.

Worst of all, violence against women and girls continues unabated in every continent, country and culture. It takes a devastating toll on women's lives, on their families, and on society as a whole. Most societies prohibit such violence -- yet the reality is that too often, it is covered up or tacitly condoned.

That is why International Women’s Day is so important. It spells out our responsibility to work for enduring change in values and attitudes. It calls on us to work in partnership -- Governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector. It urges us to work for a transformation in relations between women and men, at all levels of society. It compels us to strengthen every means of empowering women and girls -- from education to microcredit.

The United Nations must be at the forefront of those endeavours. I pledge to do all I can to ensure that it is -- not only on International Women’s Day, but every day. I look forward to working with you in our collective mission.

Video Video of the SG's message


REMARKS AT INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY  INTER-AGENCY EVENT ON ENDING IMPUNITY FOR VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS
New York, 8 March 2007

Madam President of the General Assembly,
Mr. President of the Security Council,
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I am happy to be with you to celebrate International Women’s Day -- my first as Secretary-General. I hope you will all come to know me as a firm ally in the cause of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

On this day, let me add my voice to the tributes to Ms. Angela King -- a great champion of women’s rights, and an inspiration to women and men everywhere. Let us resolve to build on her legacy.

This year, International Women’s Day is an occasion for all of us -- men and women alike -- to unite in defence of women and girls who live with violence, or the threat of violence. It is a time to focus on the concrete actions that all of us can and must take to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls -- Member States, the United Nations family, civil society and individuals. And it is a day to celebrate the courage and achievements of women, who, as agents of change, continue to lead the struggle to expose and end gender-based violence to ensure that girls and women enjoy their full human rights.

Violence against women and girls makes it hideous imprint on every continent, country and culture. It doesn’t care about your income, class, race or ethnic background. It takes a devastating toll on women's lives, on their families, and on society as a whole. It is a threat to all women, and should be unacceptable to all humankind.

In recent years, we have seen some progress in the struggle to end the pandemic that violence against women represents. International standards and norms have been agreed. Governments have adopted strategies and passed laws. Partnerships between Governments and women’s groups have been strengthened. And at the 2005 World Summit, world leaders pledged to redouble efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women.

But much more remains to be done if we are to end impunity for violence against women. Most societies proscribe such violence -- yet the reality is that too often, it is tolerated under the fallacious cover of cultural practices and norms, within the walls of the home. Or it is used as a weapon in armed conflict, condoned through tacit silence and passivity by the State and the law enforcement community. 

The time has come to break through those walls of silence, and turn legal norms into reality in women’s lives. That means society as a whole must take responsibility, and work for enduring change in values and attitudes. It means Governments and international organizations must operate in close partnership with social services, voluntary and professional organizations, the private sector and the broader public. And it means we must all -- women and men --- work for a transformation in relations between women and men, at all levels of society.
We must work together on several fronts:

  • Empowering women and girls through education and innovative tools such as microfinance;
  • closing the gaps between international standards and national laws, policies and practices;
  • strengthening our knowledge and understanding of all forms of violence against women;
  • building and sustaining effective strategies embracing all parts of society, coordinated nationally and locally;
  • and allocating adequate resources and funding for all these efforts.  

The United Nations must be at the forefront of the endeavour. In this, I believe we can draw support from proposals to strengthen the UN’s gender architecture, as presented by the High-level Panel on United Nations System-wide Coherence. I encourage Member States to study the possibility of replacing several current structures with one dynamic UN entity. Such a new body should be able to call on all of the UN system’s resources in the work to empower women and realize gender equality worldwide. It should mobilize forces of change at the global level, and inspire enhanced results at the country level.

Through an integrated and holistic approach, we can determine what strategies work, and we can support and replicate them.  We can help put in place measures of accountability that emphasize individual, community and national responsibility for ending violence against women. We can ensure that efforts for both prevention and intervention obtain the resources they need. And we can bring the scourge of violence against women out into the open, by discussing it openly at the United Nations. 

Today, I propose that the General Assembly devote an agenda item every year to considering the question of violence against women. I urge the Security Council to establish a mechanism dedicated to monitoring violence against women and girls, within the framework of resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.

And I call on every one of us to take this issue with the deadly seriousness that it deserves -- not only on International Women’s Day, but every day.

I thank you for your commitment to that mission, and look forward to working with you in the years ahead.

 Thank you very much.