Today, on this 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, we celebrate a century of progress, a century of women using their collective voice to organize for change.
It is very appropriate that at the same time, we are celebrating the creation of UN Women, an ambitious international commitment to accelerate the realization of women’s rights and gender equality.
I am honoured to be the first leader of this new United Nations organization.
Much has been achieved over 100 years. When the first International Women’s Day took place, women could vote only in two countries. Today, that right is virtually universal and women have now been elected to lead Governments in every continent. Women are participating in the workforce in greater and greater numbers and 67 countries have laws mandating equal pay for men and women; 126 countries have guaranteed maternity leave.
As we see on our television screens every day, women and girls are mobilizing, alongside men and boys, to advance political freedoms worldwide. While the achievement of gender equality is closer than ever before, we still have far to go.
Our vision in UN Women is a world where men and women have equal opportunities and capacities and the principles of gender equality are embedded in the development, peace and security agendas.
Realizing this vision involves opening up spaces for women’s political leadership, as trade and peace negotiators, as heads of corporations; it involves freeing women from gender-based violence and convincing key policy makers that where women fully contribute to their economies and societies, the gains for everyone are greatly increased.
Evidence shows that where women have access to good education, good jobs, land and other assets, national growth and stability are enhanced, and we see lower maternal mortality, improved child nutrition, greater food security and less risk of HIV and AIDS. Men and women around the world who share this vision have a new global champion in UN Women to help make our collective vision a reality.
I am determined that UN Women will live up to the hopes of those who worked so hard to establish it, and will generate new energy, bringing together people from every country, society and community in a shared endeavor.
Happy International Women’s Day!