UN commemoration of IWD 2014: Speech by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Speech by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for UN commemoration of International Women's Day 2014


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Your Excellency Mr. John Ashe, President of the General Assembly,
Your Excellency Ms. Hillary Rodham Clinton, it’s good to see you back at the United Nations,
Ms. Andrea Nunez, Vice President of the World YWCA Board,
Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, thank you for your leadership on your first Women’s Day as head of UN Women,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the United Nations and happy International Women’s Day.

Yesterday, I met with an extraordinary young woman in London. Her name is Fahma Mohammad. 

She is leading a global campaign against female genital mutilation.  I was deeply moved by her strong voice and clear message. She is making a difference by mobilizing the world. 

Before that, I was in Sierra Leone. Not long ago, the headlines from that country read:  blood diamonds … child soldiers … brutal amputations. Sierra Leone was a byword for protracted, insoluble conflict. 

And yet, all of that changed. Sierra Leone still faces challenges, but there is peace. There is opportunity. There is hope.

I went there to officially close our mission – and pledge our continued support for the country’s peaceful development. 

The credit for Sierra Leone’s transition belongs, above all, to the county’s people.

At a time when we are hurtled from one crisis to the next, their progress is a reminder that we can turn things around. We can build a better world

That is the spirit that brings us here today. 

We know the challenges before us. 

Throughout the world, discrimination against women and girls is rampant, and in some cases getting worse.

But we also know equality for women is progress for all. 

Countries with higher levels of gender equality have higher economic growth.

Companies with more women on their Boards have higher returns.

Peace agreements that include women are more successful.

Parliaments with more women take up a wider range of issues – including health, education, anti-discrimination, and child support.

Gender equality and women’s empowerment have been a top priority for me from day one. And I am committed to making sure that the UN walks the talk. 

Today, the top humanitarian official of the United Nations … our top development official … the head of peacebuilding support and the head of peacekeeping support … the heads of human rights, disarmament and the World Food Programme – not to mention my own Chief of Staff … are all women. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

In just two days, the 58th Commission on the Status of Women will begin.

It will focus on the challenges and achievements in meeting the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls.

There have been important advances – more in girls in schools, more women in parliaments. 

Yet progress has been far too slow and uneven.

A baby girl born today will still face inequality and discrimination, no matter where her mother lives.

We must commit to her right to live free from the violence that affects one in three women globally; to equal pay for equal work; to an equal say in the decisions that affect her life; and to her fundamental right to decide if and when she will have children, and how many she will have.

To every girl born today, and to every woman and girl on the planet, our message is that human rights are not a dream.

They are they are a duty for which we must all work until they are universally realized.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Next year will mark 20 years since the Beijing Women’s Conference – a Conference on which Secretary Clinton played such an instrumental role.

Next year is also the deadline for our work to craft the post-2015 agenda and sustainable development goals.

Women’s rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality are essential components of this conversation – including fundamental sexual and reproductive rights and ending violence against women.

This is a conversation for all.

That is why today I make a special appeal to the men and boys of the world:  Join us. 

Take the message forward in your homes, your workplaces, your schools, and your communities:  

Where men and women have equal rights, societies prosper. 

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us recommit to equality and empowerment in all that we do.

Equality for women is progress for all.
Thank you.