UN kicks off International Women’s Day celebrations with appeal for gender equality 

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March 7: Despite great strides in the advancement of gender parity, women still lag behind men across an array of critical areas, from political representation and wage equality to education – a gender gap that the United Nations is once again tackling head-on as it kicks off its annual observance of International Women’s Day.

Speaking at the High-Level Thematic Debate on Advancing Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women and Girls for a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the World had seen “important advances” for gender equity over the past two decades as women’s participation in political life has increased, maternal mortality has dropped, and the gender gap in primary education has closed.

According to UN Women, approximately 50 per cent of women worldwide are in paid employment, an increase from 40 per cent than 20 years ago. In the international sphere, meanwhile, the global community has widely acknowledged the need to increase women’s role in peace building in post-conflict countries, boosting women’s presence in area traditionally dominated by men.

Nonetheless, the data also paint a startling picture: today, only one in five parliamentarians is a woman while, at the present rate of progress, it will take an estimated 81 years for women to achieve parity in employment. At the same time, the pandemic of violence against women and girls affects one in three women worldwide

The Secretary-General said that those gathered that there are still five countries where not a single woman is represented in parliament while eight countries still lack a woman in the cabinet. The scourge of early and forced marriages continues to violate the rights of girls; women still do most of the World’s unpaid and low-paid work; and many women around the World are still denied their sexual and reproductive health rights.

“This year we have a unique opportunity to end these wrongs and deliver on the promises of Beijing,” he continued, referring to the upcoming 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action, the “international blueprint” for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

“Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls are essential to our sustainable future,” he added.

As the UN prepares for the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, the Organization will lead the charge on gender issues over the next week through a number of major events, including an International Women’s Day march that will wind its way from UN Headquarters to New York’s Times Square on 8 March.

In addition, the Organization has been generating significant momentum and urgency in the lead-up to next week’s annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women, the two-week event exclusively devoted to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women which will bring representatives of UN Member States, civil society groups and UN entities together to take stock of where women stand today.

Addressing the meeting as a special guest, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka urged governments to adopt a three-pronged approach in order to remove the root causes of gender equality. She said that only with “tireless political will, increased resources, and strong accountability” could the global community formulate a bold enough agenda to pursue gender equality by 2030.

Along with such issues as the tenuous situation of women, girls and children in conflict areas, the need to protect sexual and reproductive healthcare rights, and the importance of addressing the structural causes of gender inequality such as discriminatory laws and practices, social norms, customs, and unequal access to, he said that speakers went on to note the unique and cumbersome hurdles faced by poor, less-educated and otherwise marginalized women.

The Oslo Times

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