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International Women’s Day

The Secretary-General’s written message on International Women’s Day New York


8 March 2017


Secretary-General António Guterres. Photo: World Economic Forum/Boris Baldinger (file)


Women’s rights are human rights. But in these troubled times, as our world becomes more unpredictable and chaotic, the rights of women and girls are being reduced, restricted and reversed.
Empowering women and girls is the only way to protect their rights and make sure they can realize their full potential.


Historic imbalances in power relations between men and women, exacerbated by growing inequalities within and between societies and countries, are leading to greater discrimination against women and girls. Around the world, tradition, cultural values and religion are being misused to curtail women’s rights, to entrench sexism and defend misogynistic practices.


Women’s legal rights, which have never been equal to men’s on any continent, are being eroded further. Women’s rights over their own bodies are questioned and undermined.  Women are routinely targeted for intimidation and harassment in cyberspace and in real life. In the worst cases, extremists and terrorists build their ideologies around the subjugation of women and girls and single them out for sexual and gender-based violence, forced marriage and virtual enslavement.


Despite some improvements, leadership positions across the board are still held by men, and the economic gender gap is widening, thanks to outdated attitudes and entrenched male chauvinism. We must change this, by empowering women at all levels, enabling their voices to be heard and giving them control over their own lives and over the future of our world.


Denying the rights of women and girls is not only wrong in itself; it has a serious social and economic impact that holds us all back. Gender equality has a transformative effect that is essential to fully functioning communities, societies and economies.


Women’s access to education and health services has benefits for their families and communities that extend to future generations. An extra year in school can add up to 25 per cent to a girl’s future income.


When women participate fully in the labour force, it creates opportunities and generates growth. Closing the gender gap in employment could add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025. Increasing the proportion of women in public institutions makes them more representative, increases innovation, improves decision-making and benefits whole societies.


Gender equality is central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the global plan agreed by leaders of all countries to meet the challenges we face. Sustainable Development Goal 5 calls specifically for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, and this is central to the achievement of all the 17 SDGs.


I am committed to increasing women’s participation in our peace and security work. Women negotiators increase the chances of sustainable peace, and women peacekeepers decrease the chances of sexual exploitation and abuse.


Within the UN, I am establishing a clear road map with benchmarks to achieve gender parity across the system, so that our Organization truly represents the people we serve.  Previous targets have not been met. Now we must move from ambition to action.


On International Women’s Day, let us all pledge to do everything we can to overcome entrenched prejudice, support engagement and activism, and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.





International Women’s Day spotlights impact of changing world of work


8 March 2017

At a time when women’s voices are rising around the world, International Women’s Day will be commemorated globally on 8 March through a rich diversity of initiatives, celebrating women’s achievements, opportunities and potential, while reflecting on this year’s theme of “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”. Technological advances, mobility of labour, the green economy and globalization can bring unprecedented possibilities for women if they have access to relevant education and training. On the other hand, an increasing number of women are stuck in the low-paid informal economy with no social protection. Women and girls also still carry an enormous unpaid care burden and face other barriers, such as unequal pay, lack of paid parental leave and flexible work arrangements, which significantly impact their participation and contribution to the global economy.

The statistics are staggering: only about 50 per cent of working age women compared to 76 per cent of men are represented in the labour force globally today, and women take on 2.5 times more unpaid work than men. The global gender pay gap is 23 percent.

“We want to construct a different world of work for women. As they grow up, girls must be exposed to a broad range of careers, and encouraged to make choices that lead beyond the traditional service and care options to jobs in industry, art, public service, modern agriculture and science,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director in her message for the Day. “In roles where women are already over-represented but poorly paid, and with little or no social protection, we must make those industries work better for women. For example, a robust care economy that responds to the needs of women and gainfully employs them; equal terms and conditions for women’s paid work and unpaid work; and support for women entrepreneurs, including their access to finance and markets,” she reiterated.

Along with a wide range of events across the globe, in New York, the commemoration of the Day will include a special event at the United Nations Headquarters, bringing together activists, celebrities, business industry leaders, UN senior officials and Member States.  António Guterres in his first International Women’s Day commemoration as UN Secretary-General; along with Peter Thomson, President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly; Lana Nusseibeh, President of UN Women Executive Board; Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women; Casar Jacobson, disability activist and youth champion; singer and songwriter Jayna Brown; and American award-winning actor and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Anne Hathaway will participate in the event.

At the event, Anne Hathaway will deliver a keynote address in her first public appearance as UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, with a focus on unpaid care work and paid parental leave. A panel discussion featuring prominent speakers from governments, the UN, activists and private sector representatives will follow [FLYER with programme], moderated by ABC News anchor Sade Baderinwa.

Also on International Women’s Day, in partnership with the iconic Lincoln Centre and the City of New York, UN Women will launch the HeforShe Arts Week, attended by Bjarni Benediktsson, Prime Minister of Iceland and HeForShe IMPACT Champion; Chirlane McCray, First Lady of New York City; Édgar Ramírez, Actor and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador; and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director. Now in its second year, the HeforShe Arts Week is commemorated annually for one week with the aim of raising awareness and funding for gender equality through the arts. More than 60 cultural institutions will join the New York events including the Empire State Building, the MET and Guggenheim Museums, Gotham Comedy Club, and the Tribeca Film Festival, along with events across eight cities from London to Sao Paulo.

Marking International Women’s Day globally, a broad range of dynamic events will be organized by UN Women, ranging from film festivals, panels, solidarity marches, seminars and press conferences to arts, sports and academic activities. In more than 50 countries, from Thailand to Rwanda, Belgium, Tunisia, Turkmenistan and Ecuador, UN Women will partner with governments, universities, civil society, youth organizations and other UN agencies to organize high-profile events.

Performing arts will lead the celebrations in Morocco with a theatre play that will bring together professional actors, lawyers and activists while in Albania, a performance of “The Invisible Women” by the feminist initiative, Fight like a Woman, will be the top highlight. Across Kazakhstan, rural youth activists will come together to share experiences, and a photo exhibition titled "Yes, She Can" will be hosted in shopping malls in four cities across the country, displaying women working in non-traditional jobs. In Algeria, UN Women along with the UN Country Team will honor companies or NGOs that have taken concrete actions to promote women's economic empowerment and in Côte d'Ivoire donors will visit women's empowerment programmes in rural areas to see the impact of their contribution and additional opportunities to unlock women’s potential everywhere.

In the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, a marathon mobilizing thousands will be organized, while stock exchanges in Sri Lanka and India will ring the bell for gender equality. In the State of Palestine, UN Women in collaboration with the British Consulate General will organize an “all-women stage” night event in Jerusalem. The celebration will include TED-style talks by successful women in sports, business, social affairs and politics. In another corner of the globe, the two main cities in Ecuador, Quito and Guayaquil, will offer workshops and panels on women in innovation leadership and the arts, among others.  

The linkages between violence against women and girls and women’s economic empowerment will be highlighted in events in the Caribbean where UN Women will partner with local governments, rural women producers and micro entrepreneurs. Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and Saint Lucia and Guyana will have solidarity marches against gender-based violence in support of the social media-based movement #LifeinLeggings, which was born last November in Barbados during the 16 Days of Activism fortnight in 2016.

In association with UN Women, Snapchat, the popular mobile story-telling app, will feature women from all walks of life in a popular format called ‘Live Story’, which will be shared with the Snapchat audience on 8 March. Users who watch the story in their app will have the chance to contribute their own Snaps, telling their stories of empowerment. Twitter has associated a special emoji with the hashtag #WomensDay.
•    Join the conversation: Follow  @UN_Women on Twitter and share your messages using the hashtag #WomensDay
•    The International Women’s Day observance will be webcast live; and
•    For media interested to cover the International Women’s Day observance, UN press accreditation is required. More information at:
•    UN Women Executive Director’s Message for International Women’s Day:
•    More information on International Women’s Day:
•    Gender-related news and resources from the UN:

United Nations Information Centre Pretoria




February/March 2020

















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