International Women's Day
8 March 1988 

Press Release SG/SM/4092


Following is the text of a message from Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar on the occasion of International Women's Day (8 March):

Today, as a result of the United Nations Decade for Women, which mobilized global support for improving the status of women, we have a carefully sculpted global agenda to advance the status of women as full partners, as well as to evolve new images of society which include partnership at home and in the work place. In the process, new opportunities are being provided to eliminate gender-stereotyping, attitudes and practices which also limit and inhibit men. Such efforts will benefit not only women, but the whole human family and will help to secure a better world for us all.

Problems of discrimination by gender exist in developed and developing countries alike. For example, failure to recognize and assist the growing numbers of single, female heads of households has endangered the future of an increasing number of children world-wide. Failure to assist women agriculturalists has contributed to dwindling self-sufficiency in food.

Emphasizing the place of women in the development process is no longer seen merely in terms of equity versus efficiency. Rather, it is being recognized that components concerning women should not be an afterthought in project preparation and design, but should be integrated into the rationale of every project and programme.

Any serious attack on rural poverty is destined to fail if women are ignored or taken for granted. Thus, in projects designed for the rural sector, where most of the world's women are found, the focus should not only be on reducing the drudgery of women's field tasks and domestic chores, but also on women's economic role.

In observing International Women's Day 1988, we must also look at the gender implications of the debt crisis that threatens many developing nations. During the process of structural adjustment, countries striving to reduce their debt are confronted with painful choices. Assistance is needed in the design of adjustment policies in order that the burden imposed be fairly distributed and that the bulk of the poorest - a large share of whom are women - do not suffer disproportionately.

In many parts of the world, the legal position of women is for better than their actual position. The challenge now is to work actively for women's integration and participation as beneficiaries n and contributors at all levels, and to win justice and equal rights for women in practice as well as in law.

An important step in completing the structure of legal protection is for those Governments that have not yet done so to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The Convention, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1979, seeks to eliminate discrimination against women in education, marriage, ownership of property, employment, health care the law, access to credit and participation in political and public life, culture and sports.

Article 4 of the Convention has particular relevance today. It states that those special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality between men and women shall not be viewed as reverse discrimination against men. These measures shall be discontinued when the objectives of equality of opportunity and treatment have been achieved. Programmes therefore that are specifically geared towards advancing the status of women should be encouraged.

The Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women is the Year 2000 adopted by consensus at the Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1985, address all these and other issues. Governments are urged to take all necessary steps to implement these Strategies, especially those that affect women's organizations should be consulted. It is only through this partnership of Governments and women's organizations that the full meaning and substance of the strategies can be realized.

The United Nations identified the advancement of women as a priority for the 1988-1989 planning cycle to ensure that the momentum of the decade on the part of the United Nations will not be last and that women are fully represented in all United Nations programmes. It is also essential to ensure that the gains already made in recognizing and promoting the legitimate cause of women are not eroded by the current financial crisis faced by the Organization.

Today, on International Women's Day, let us renew our commitment to the goals of advancing the status of women world-wide. Legal principle must be translated into actual practice. It is for this reason that the United Nations has adopted the slogan, "TIME FOR ACTION" for International Women's Day, for 1988.

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