Gender equality and women’s rights are fundamental to global progress on peace and security, human rights and sustainable development. We can only re-establish trust in institutions, rebuild global solidarity and reap the benefits of diverse perspectives by challenging historic injustices and promoting the rights and dignity of all.
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In a statement for International Women's Day, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, calls to put innovation at the centre of efforts to reflect the needs and viewpoints of women and girls and to resolve barriers to public services and opportunities.
This year’s theme captures the vibrant life of the women activists whose passion and commitment have won women’s rights over the generations, and successfully brought change. We celebrate an unprecedented global movement for women’s rights, equality, safety and justice, recognizing the tireless work of activists who have been central to this global push for gender equality.
The activism and advocacy of generations of women has borne fruit. There are more girls in school than ever before; more women are doing paid work and in senior roles in the private sector, academia, politics and in international organizations, including the United Nations.
Across the world, too many women and girls spend too many hours on household responsibilities—typically more than double the time spent by men and boys. They look after younger siblings, older family members, deal with illness in the family and manage the house. In many cases this unequal division of labour is at the expense of women’s and girls’ learning, of paid work, sports, or engagement in civic or community leadership.
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.
As a boy growing up in post-war Korea, I remember asking about a tradition I observed: women going into labour would leave their shoes at the threshold and then look back in fear. "They are wondering if they will ever step into those shoes again," my mother explained.
This year's celebration of International Women's Day is the first within the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls are confidently asserted in that Agenda as intrinsic to progress.