International Women's Day 8 March 2002
Statement by Noeleen Heyzer,Executive Director, UNIFEM
More than a year has passed since the historic United Nations
Millennium Summit (September, 2000) when nearly 150 world leaders
endorsed a clear set of development goals. They agreed to halve
extreme poverty, reduce the maternal mortality ratio by
three-quarters and achieve equal access of girls to all levels of
education, all by 2015. They also committed the world to halt, and
begin to reverse, the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015.
Gender equality is paramount to the fulfillment of each of these
goals. In order to halve extreme poverty and reduce maternal
mortality, we must first specifically address the issue of feminized
poverty and resources must be allocated to ensure women's survival,
options and opportunities. In order to achieve parity in school
enrollment between girls and boys, we must stop girls from being
pulled out of school to care for their family members who are sick
and dying from HIV and AIDS. In order for violence to cease being a
daily reality for women across the globe, we must work towards more
equal power relations between women and men. In order to curb HIV
infection rates, we must take measures to address the fact that women
are biologically, economically and culturally more vulnerable to
contracting the virus and we must work to give women the right and
power to refuse unwanted and unprotected sex and be heeded.
Two upcoming global events are critical to advancing the Millennium
Development Goals and ensuring that gender equality is seen as a
pre-requisite for sustainable development and poverty eradication.
The 46th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) to
take place this month in New York has identified the eradication of
poverty and the empowerment of women throughout their life cycle as
the main focus of this year's discussion.
The second critical event is the International Conference on
Financing for Development (FFD) to take place in Monterey, Mexico in
March 2002. This is a unique opportunity to ensure that resources
follow rhetoric. For the first time in history, the UN, World Bank,
IMF, and WTO will come together to find new ways to use financial
resources to meet basic human needs, such as health, education and
UNIFEM has been working closely with women's groups to ensure that
their voices are heard at this important international forum. The FFD
conference must address the issue of feminized poverty and promote
equitable, effective and appropriate resource allocation to improve
women's lives if we are serious about achieving the Millennium
The best way to measure commitment to gender equality is to follow
the money. UNIFEM has been working with partners on gender responsive
budget analysis, which helps governments decide where resources need
to be reallocated to achieve human development and gender equality.
Gender budget analysis can also be applied to the distribution of
official development assistance and we should start with the
reconstruction process for Afghanistan.
Over the past months we have witnessed an international outcry over
the suffering and exclusion of Afghan women. Now is the time to
ensure that international aid is used to help Afghan women regain
their rights. Rebuilding the country will be a difficult and lengthy
process. The majority of Afghan women have no access to clean water,
energy or sanitation. Only 3% of Afghan women are literate and 1,600
out of 100,000 Afghan women die during childbirth.
Women in Afghanistan are key players in recreating their communities
and their country, but their contributions need to be recognized,
valued and supported. Based on extensive consultations with Afghan
women living inside and outside the country, we have outlined four
key areas of concern that require immediate action.
The first is women's security. The truth is that women don't feel
safe and silence surrounds violence against women in the home. The
promotion of gender justice is a second priority. In practice this
will mean that violations of women's rights will be monitored,
reported and remedied. Governance is the third priority. While a
strong Women's Ministry is vital to making sure that commitments to
women are honored, women's perspectives and leadership must also be
included within other ministries and outside of government. The
fourth priority is women's economic security. Women need to be
employed and paid decent wages.
On this International Women's Day, we want to express our solidarity
with the women of Afghanistan and reiterate the need for women to be
central to all levels of the reconstruction process. We want to call
for increased commitment and financial resources to fulfill the
Millennium Development Goals and for official development assistance
to meet the needs of women, especially those who are most vulnerable
and from marginalized groups. These challenges are not the
responsibility of any single institution or government. It is an
undertaking that requires the pooling of all human strengths and
sources of creativity and it is the responsibility that men and women
must share equally.
The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) works to
promote women's empowerment, rights and gender equality worldwide.
For more information, visit http://www.unifem.undp.org
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