International Women's Day
8 March 1993 

Press Release SG/SM/4935


The following is the text of the statement made today by Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali issued on the occasion of International Women's Day (8 March):

International Women's Day is a time to celebrate what women have achieved in their struggle for equal rights, social progress and peace. It is a time to speak honestly about the continuing oppression of women in many areas of the world and in many aspects of daily life. And it is a time to speak of what must be done to advance the cause of women still further.

The promotion and protection of the rights of women are central to the work of the United Nations. One hundred and nineteen countries - more than two thirds of the current membership - have subscribed to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The declaration on the elimination of violence against women, now in draft, is expected to be adopted by the forty-eighth session of the General Assembly. The Commission on the Status of Women is active in the promotion of women's rights. And, as half of all humanity is made up of women, women's rights are high on the agenda of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and of the World Conference on Human Rights, to be held in Vienna in June.

Within communities and at the grass-roots level, in places of education and employment, efforts need to be redoubled to ensure women are treated fairly and without discrimination.

In my own case, as chief administrative officer of the United Nations Organization, I have a responsibility to ensure that promotion and advancement are open to women. I have set a simple target: by the time of the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations, in 1995, I expect to see the numbers of women working in Professional posts at the United Nations to be reflective of the world population as a whole. I have appointed two women to high-level posts in recent months, as Executive Director of the United Nations environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi, and as Secretary-General of the

Fourth World Conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace, to be held in 1995. Within the department of Administration and Management, I have appointed women to head the Offices of Conference Services and General Services. I have also directed the Office of Human Resources Management to develop a targeted plan of concrete action by 1993-1994 to improve the status of women in the Secretariat. Today, we have two women at the Under-Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General level, and nine at the D-2 level.

More generally, acceptance and awareness of the rights of women - by public opinion as well as by Governments - have never been so widespread. Many countries have introduced legislation and encouraged policies which recognize the rights of women. Governments and non-governmental organizations in many countries are encouraging women to organize in self-help groups and women's cooperatives. Many women, particularly n the developing countries and in the new independent States, are, for the first time in their lives, beginning to realize their potential and to develop economic self-sufficiency.

Communities benefit directly from the skills and energise which such activities release. The are also enriched by the collective activities of women which demonstrate the values of solidarity and cooperation.

In many countries, at the national, local and village levels, women are playing a more active role in civic life. Equality between the sexes, and the development of effective governmental responses to the needs of women, will not come about until the voice of women is heard in policies.

While there has been steady progress in the articulation and implementation of women's rights in many countries, a reversion to barbarism had occurred in others. Some countries have seen the use of systematic sexual violence against women as a s weapon of war to degrade and humiliate entire populations. Rape is the most despicable crime against women: mass rape is an abomination. It is a symptom of the unrestrained and vicious new form of warfare which is appearing in the wake of the cold war. War today involves more civilian deaths and casualties - including women - then at any time in history. The eradication of such criminal forms of warfare is high on the Agenda for Peace of the United Nations.

We look forward to the Fourth World Conference on Women, to be held in Beijing in 1995. On that occasion, I hope to be able to report progress in the struggle for peace, women's rights and social justice. I hope that the world will, well before then, have taken steps the new barbarism and punish those responsible. The struggle for women's rights, and the task of creating a new United Nations, able to promote peace and the values which nurture and sustain it, are one and the same. Today -more than ever - the cause of women is the cause of all humanity.

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