UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a message to mark the upcoming International Women’s Day on March 8, has called for empowerment of women as “agents of change” to address pressing problems.
In poor parts of the world today, women still risk death in the process of giving life and girls are attacked on their way to school, Ban said.
“We can only address these problems by empowering women as agents of change,” he said, citing positive changes within the UN system.
“When I arrived at the United Nations, there were no women leading our peace missions in the field. Now, nearly a quarter of all UN missions are headed by women far from enough but still a vast improvement,” he added.
While he remains outraged by the denial of rights to women and girls, Ban said he takes heart from the people everywhere who act on the secure knowledge that “women’s empowerment leads to society’s advancement.”
UN Undersecretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuk, also called on the international community to “Step It Up for Gender Equality.”
This year’s celebration of International Women’s Day is the first within the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The agenda’s goals include achieving gender equality, said Mlambo-Ngcuk.
“To arrive at the future we want, we cannot leave anyone behind. We have to start with those who are the least regarded. These are largely women and girls, although in poor and troubled areas, they can also include boys and men,” she said.
Echoing Ban’s message, Mlambo-Ngcuk noted that women and girls are critical to finding sustainable solutions to the challenges of poverty, inequality and the recovery of the communities hardest hit by conflicts, disasters and displacements.
Moreover, women and girls are at the frontline of the outbreaks of threatening new epidemics, such as Zika virus disease or the impact of climate change, and at the same time are the bulwark to protect their families, work for peace, and ensure sustainable economic growth and social change, she said.
She reiterated the greater participation of women as one of the necessary conditions for an inclusive Agenda 2030.
“Their leadership is insufficiently recognized but must emerge with greater participation in decision-making bodies,” she said.
The 2016 theme for International Women’s Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”.
The official UN commemoration will take place at the UN headquarters in New York City on March 8. It will consist of a series of musical performances and two panel discussions.