NEW YORK, 8th March, 2016 (WAM) — Being commemorated around the world on 8th March, International Women’s Day galvanises global attention on gender equality and women’s rights issues. The 2016 theme for International Women’s Day is, “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”. UN Women will leverage the day to underline the urgent need to accelerate concrete actions towards a more equitable world by accelerating the 2030 Agenda, building momentum for the effective implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals, and other existing commitments on gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s human rights.

The UN says that women and girls make up more than half the world’s population, and they are on the frontlines, often more deeply impacted than men and boys by poverty, climate change, food insecurity, lack of healthcare, and global economic crises. Their contributions and leadership are central to finding a solution.

In his message on the day, UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, says, “Armed with proof of the value of women leaders at the United Nations, I have spoken out for women’s empowerment everywhere. In speeches at parliaments, universities and street rallies, in private talks with world leaders, in meetings with corporate executives and in tough conversations with powerful men ruling rigidly patriarchal societies, I have insisted on women’s equality and urged measures to achieve it.” He stresses that the world can only address problems facing women by empowering them as agents of change.

”I appointed the first-ever female Force Commander of United Nations troops, and pushed women’s representation at the upper levels of our organisation to historic highs. Women are now leaders at the heart of peace and security, a realm that was once the exclusive province of men. When I arrived at the United Nations, there were no women leading our peace missions in the field. Now, nearly a quarter of all UN missions are headed by women, far from enough but still a vast improvement,” he said.

”I have signed nearly 150 letters of appointment to women in positions as Assistant Secretary-General or Under-Secretary-General. Some came from top government offices with international renown, others have moved on to leadership positions in their home countries. All helped me prove how often a woman is the best person for a job,” he added ”When I took office, there were nine parliaments in the world with no women. We helped to drive that number down to four. I launched the UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign in 2008; today, scores of leaders and ministers, hundreds parliamentarians and millions of individuals have added their names to the action call.

”On this International Women’s Day, I remain outraged by the denial of rights to women and girls, but I take heart from the people everywhere who act in the secure knowledge that women’s empowerment leads to society’s advancement. Let us devote solid funding, courageous advocacy and unbending political will to achieving gender equality around the world. There is no greater investment in our common future, the UN chief concluded.

UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said on the observance that, ”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 the agenda as being intrinsic to progress. The new Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals include a specific goal to achieve gender equality, which aims to end discrimination and violence against women and girls and ensure equal participation and opportunities in all spheres of life. Important provisions for women’s empowerment are also included in most of the other goals.” In conjunction with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, she noted, more than 90 governments have answered UN Women’s call for action to “Step It Up for Gender Equality”. Heads of State and Government have pledged concrete and measurable actions to crack some of the fundamental barriers to the achievement of gender equality in their countries.

”Unanimously, at the 59th Commission on the Status of Women in 2015, governments re-affirmed the Beijing Platform for Action. Businesses large and small are committing to, and implementing, shifts in culture and practice that foster greater equality and opportunity. Women individually, and civil society together, have called for lasting and transformative change by 2030.

“With these unprecedented expressions of political will, the countdown to substantive gender equality by 2030 must begin, accompanied and underpinned by monitoring of accountability and evaluation of progress.

”We draw strength from this solidarity as we face world events such as severe population displacement, extreme violence against women and girls, and extensive instability and crises in many regions.

”To arrive at the future we want, we cannot leave anyone behind. We have to start with those who are the least regarded. These are largely women and girls, although in poor and troubled areas, they can also include boys and men. Women and girls are critical to finding sustainable solutions to the challenges of poverty, inequality and the recovery of the communities hardest hit by conflicts, disasters and displacements. They are at the frontline of the outbreaks of threatening new epidemics, such as Zika virus disease or the impact of climate change, and at the same time are the bulwark to protect their families, work for peace, and ensure sustainable economic growth and social change.

On International Women’s Day, Mlambo-Ngcuka went on to say,”We reiterate the greater participation of women as one of the necessary conditions for an inclusive Agenda 2030. Their leadership is insufficiently recognised but must emerge with greater participation in decision-making bodies. Each one of us is needed in our countries, communities, organisations, governments and in the United Nations to ensure decisive, visible and measurable actions are taken under the banner: Planet 50-50: Step It Up for Gender Equality.” ”We build on the commitments that have already been made by all governments. We also build on the legacy of determined and vocal participation by the small group of founding women from all parts of the world, who were in San Francisco in 1945 when the UN Charter was adopted. They laid the foundation for all that has followed in the struggle for the fulfilment of women’s rights.

“The participation of women at all levels and the strengthening of the women’s movement has never been so critical, working together with boys and men, to empower nations, build stronger economies and healthier societies. It is the key to making Agenda 2030 transformational and inclusive,” she concluded.

International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.

The idea of this year’s theme is to consider how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda, building momentum for the effective implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals, especially goal number five: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, and number 4: “Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning”. The theme will also focus on new commitments under UN Women’s Step It Up initiative, and other existing commitments on gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s human rights.

Some key targets of the 2030 Agenda: By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes.

By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.

End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.

Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.

Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

WAM/tfaham/Moran