WOMEN’S EQUALITY CRITICAL FOR REACHING MILLENNIUM SUMMIT DEVELOPMENT GOALS,
SAYS DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL TO WOMEN’S DAY OBSERVANCE
Following are the remarks of Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette to the International Women’s Day observance in New York:
I am delighted to be with you on International Women’s Day, and happy to see such a distinguished and committed group of people of both genders to the United Nations for this event. Let me thank Angela King and the United Nations inter-agency team for making it possible.
Every year, as we observe this Day, we seek to remind the international community that the work to achieve gender equality is not the responsibility of women alone -- it is the responsibility of all.
Today, we are also here to emphasize that the way we meet that challenge will not only shape the future of womankind -- it will determine the future of humankind.
It will determine our success in meeting the Millennium Development Goals -- our common blueprint for building a better world in the twenty-first century.
These eight Goals are drawn from the Millennium Declaration, which as you know was endorsed by all Member States of the United Nations. They express a set of specific, targeted and time-bound commitments, including the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. They are simple but powerful and measurable objectives that every woman and man in the street, from New York to Nairobi to New Delhi, can easily understand.
In our work to reach them, as the Millennium Declaration made clear, gender equality is not only a goal in its own right; it is critical to our ability to reach all the others.
Study after study has shown that there is no effective development strategy in which women do not play a central role. When women are fully involved, the benefits can be seen immediately: families are healthier and better fed; their income, savings and reinvestment go up. And what is true of families is also true of communities and, in the long run, of whole countries.
That means that all our work for development -- from agriculture to health, from environmental protection to water resource management -- must focus on the needs and priorities of women.
We must focus on the education of girls, who form the majority of the children worldwide who are not in school. We must focus on bringing literacy to the half billion adult women who cannot read or write -- and who make up two thirds of the world’s adult illiterates.
And we must place women at the centre of our fight against HIV/AIDS. Women now account for 50 per cent of those infected with HIV worldwide. In Africa, that figure is now 58 per cent. We must make sure that women and girls have all the skills, services and self-confidence they need to protect themselves against the virus.
Across all levels of society, we need to see a deep social revolution that transforms relationships between women and men, so that women will be able to take greater control of their lives -- financially as well as physically.
When women thrive, all of society benefits, and succeeding generations are given a better start in life.
We have known that in theory for a long time. For far too long, we have failed to act on it.
There is no time to lose if we are to reach the Millennium Development Goals by the target date of 2015. Only by investing in the world’s women can we expect to get there.
Today, let us pledge that we will act on that understanding -- not only on International Women’s Day, but every day, until we reach our objectives.
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