Progress on gender equality will mean improvements for all in society – Ban

21 January 2009
Two women refugees and their children in one of the camps on the Thailand-Myanmar border

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today encouraged top government officials from around the world gathered in Guatemala City to push for greater progress on gender equality, stressing that women’s empowerment is key to realizing other major international development targets.

“If all of you gathered here today resolve to put the rights, priorities and contributions of women and girls at the top of the development agenda, we can make real progress in helping all people in society,” Mr. Ban told the Second Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement on the Advancement of Women.

“Women’s empowerment is an important goal in itself – but it is also the key to realizing all of the other major international development targets,” he added, in a message read out by his Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, Rachel Mayanja. “That is because healthy, productively employed and politically engaged women can drive efforts to eradicate hunger, disease and poverty.”

Mr. Ban noted that since the adoption in 2000 of the global anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline, known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), there has been remarkable progress on the gender agenda, with countries working to reduce inequalities in education, employment and political representation.

“But we have a long road ahead,” he stated, drawing attention to the fact that too many girls cannot get an education beyond primary school, and that women continue to face higher unemployment rates than men, as well as lower wages.

To truly empower women, he stressed, it is vital to promote decent work principles, increase women’s access to political decision-making, as well as address women’s health.

“Above all, we need to intensify action on maternal health, the goal on which progress has been the slowest,” Mr. Ban told the gathering. “We must work to provide universal access to reproductive health by 2015. More than half a million women die each year because of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. We cannot allow this terrible death toll to continue.”

He also stressed the need to stop violence against women, and urged global support for the campaign he launched last year to unite the international community on the issue. “The abuse of women is a violation of human rights and an enormous obstacle to development, and has no place in our world,” he declared.


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