In a message to mark International Women's Day, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said investing in women is an indispensable part of building a better world in the twenty-first century.
"When women thrive, all of society benefits, and succeeding generations are given a better start in life. On this International Women's Day, I call on all of us to act with renewed urgency on that understanding," Mr. Annan said in a statement issued in conjunction with the Day, which is observed on 8 March each year.
During celebrations to mark the Day this year, the UN will focus on the theme "Gender Equality and the Millennium Development Goals." The eight Millennium Goals - including the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women - were endorsed by all UN Member States and represent a new way of doing development business, Mr. Annan said.
"In our work to reach those objectives, as the Millennium Declaration made clear, gender equality is not only a goal in its own right; it is critical to our ability to reach all the others," underscored the Secretary-General. "Study after study has shown that there is no effective development strategy in which women do not play a central role."
Noting the benefits where women are involved, Mr. Annan said "all our work for development - from agriculture to health, from environmental protection to water resource management - must focus on the needs and priorities of women."
One such pressing priority is "placing women at the centre of our fight against HIV/AIDS," the Secretary-General stressed, pointing out that "women now account for half of those infected with HIV worldwide."