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International Women's Day 2012 speeches, notes and statements

Here follow a selection of messages from relevant institutions and international organizations issued on the occasion of the International Women's Day, celebrated every year on March 8th.  Please note that it is not an exhaustive list; feel free to add links or texts to other relevant documents or notes.

Statement of Mrs Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission:

«Today we celebrate International Women’s Day. While we can be proud of the significant progress already made, this day reminds us that much work lies ahead to achieve true gender equality.

While women are still underrepresented politically, the European Union has been encouraged by the leading role they played in the Arab Spring. We hope that women will maintain a central role as these countries continue their political transition. The EU will continue to provide support to women's groups in the southern Mediterranean, as it does across the world, through projects such as the one which allowed Libyan women to observe the elections in Tunisia.

On this special day, the EU reaffirms its commitment to promoting gender equality and the advancement of women worldwide. » 

Message of Mrs Michelle Bachelet Executive Director of UN Women: 

"This International Women’s Day, I join women around the globe in solidarity for human rights, dignity and equality. This sense of mission drives me and millions of people around the world to pursue justice and inclusion. Looking back at the first year of UN Women, I applaud every individual, government and organization working for women’s empowerment and gender equality. I promise the highest commitment moving forward. The creation of UN Women has coincided with deep changes in our world –from rising protests against inequality to uprisings for freedom and democracy in the Arab world. These events have strengthened my conviction that a sustainable future can only be reached by women, men and young people enjoying equality together.From the government that changes its laws, to the enterprise that provides decent work and equal pay, to the parents that teach their daughter and son that all human beings should be treated the same, equality depends on each of us. During the past century, since the observance of the first International Women’s Day, we have witnessed a transformation in women’s legal rights, educational achievements, and participation in public life. In all regions, countries have expanded women’s legal entitlements. Women have taken many steps forward. More women are exercising leadership in politics and business, more girls are going to school, and more women survive childbirth and can plan their families. Yet while tremendous progress has been made, no country can claim to be entirely free from gender-based discrimination. This inequality can be seen in persistent gender wage gaps and unequal opportunities, in low representation of women in leadership in public office and the private sector, in child marriage and missing girls due to son preference, and in continuing violence against women in all its forms. Nowhere are disparities and barriers greater than in rural areas for women and girls. Rural women and girls comprise one in four people worldwide. They work long hours with little or no pay and produce a large proportion of the food grown, especially in subsistence agriculture. They are farmers, entrepreneurs and leaders, and their contributions sustain their families, communities, nations and all of us. Yet they face some of the worst inequities in access to social services and land and other productive assets. And this deprives them and the world of the realization of their full potential, which brings me to my main point on this International Women’s Day. No enduring solution to the major changes of our day—from climate change to political and economic instability—can be solved without the full empowerment and participation of the world’s women. We simply can no longer afford to leave women out. Women’s full and equal participation in the political and economic arena is fundamental to democracy and justice, which people are demanding. Equal rights and opportunity underpin healthy economies and societies. Providing women farmers with equal access to resources would result in 100 to 150 million fewer hungry people. Providing women with income, land rights and credit would mean fewer malnourished children. Studies show that higher levels of gender equality correlate positively with higher levels of per capita gross national product. Opening economic opportunities to women would significantly raise economic growth and reduce poverty.

The time is now.

Every human being has the right to live in peace and dignity. Every human being has the right to shape their future and the futures of their countries. That is the call for equality that I hear wherever I go. For this reason UN Women will place special focus this year on advancing women’s economic empowerment and political participation and leadership. We look forward to continued strong partnership with women, men and young people and with governments, civil society and the private sector. Today on International Women’s Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to women’s rights and move forward with courage and determination. Let us defend human rights, the inherent dignity and worth of the human person, and the equal rights of men and women."

A joint announcement by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser:

The President of the United Nations General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz al‑Nasser, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations would like to jointly propose the convening of a Global Conference on Women by the United Nations in 2015, 20 years after the last women’s summit in Beijing.

Given that women make up half of humanity and given the importance and relevance of women’s issues for global progress, it is high time that such a world conference is convened.  It is all the more important because of the enormous changes the world is going through, with both positive and other implications for women.

The President of the General Assembly and the Secretary-General feel confident the international community will welcome this joint initiative.  They also hope that the Member States, who have the final authority to convene the proposed conference, could take the necessary steps during this sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly.  They believe that the high point that the United Nations reached with the establishment of UN-Women in 2011 can be meaningfully substantiated with a global programme focusing on women that can be articulated at the Fifth Conference.

The Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, in 1995, adopted the current Forward-Looking Platform for Action.  The Beijing summit was preceded by three world conferences, beginning in 1975 in Mexico City, and followed by Copenhagen in 1980 and Nairobi in 1985.  The enthusiasm of civil society, particularly women’s organizations, for such a conference has added extra strength to the general support expected for today’s proposal.

The President of the General Assembly and the Secretary-General believe that a world conference on women could review the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.  They also believe it could tackle emerging issues, in particular those relating to women and political participation, United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) that deals with women and peace and security, equal access to decent work and to decision-making, and the involvement of rural women and girls.  It could also cover aid effectiveness, food security, trafficking, drugs, migration, environment, climate change and information technology, all of which make an impact on women, and on nations and societies as a whole.  In all these matters, the role and involvement of young people, particularly women, would add an important dimension that was not properly reflected at earlier conferences.



Message by Mr Juan Somavia Director-General of the ILO:

"Today we celebrate International Women’s Day by recognizing the important contribution of rural women across the world to the well-being of their families and communities and in sustaining societies and economies. We call for action to ensure that all rural women can live and work in dignity.

Women comprise around 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, and more than 70 per cent of the labour force in some agriculture-intensive economies. Working as farmers, wage labourers, and entrepreneurs, rural women also take on a disproportionate share of the responsibility of caring for children and the elderly. Through these multiple roles rural women have a fundamental part to play in achieving rural development.

Rural women are paid less than men and often lag behind in access to education, training, technologies and mobility. They also work longer days than men, taking both paid and unpaid work into consideration. Much of their work remains unrecognized because it is not remunerated and confined to the domestic sphere. With a continuing economic crisis it is expected that in most countries women’s unpaid work is likely to increase, diminishing their ability to engage in productive activities.

Rural women everywhere face gender-related constraints that limit their access to decent work as well as their productivity. Enhancement of women’s productive capacity depends on better access to decent jobs and control over productive resources. If they are given the opportunity to realize their full potential all stand to benefit.

It is time for change and it is timely to recall that there is a decent work route out of poverty.

With gender equality a guiding principle, the ILO promotes decent work for all. Promoting respect for fundamental principles and rights at work and social dialogue, promoting employment creation and enterprise development, and improving access to social protection, the ILO supports rural women’s fight to live in dignity, through access to more and better jobs.

This agenda empowers, it is a pathway to sustainable development. With integrated action, it enables women and men to break the vicious cycle of poverty.

Applied to the rural economy what does it take?

  • Respecting freedom from discrimination as a fundamental right supported by all policies affecting the rural sector;

  • With freedom of association, organization gives strength and voice to rural women;

  • Ensuring that equity and equality begin early with action to keep girls as well as boys in school up to the minimum age for entry into employment – respecting the right to freedom from child labour;

  • Enhancing women’s capacity to engage in productive work – through education and training, opening up their access to productive resources and expanding employment opportunities including through support for rural enterprises, infrastructural development and in promoting rural green jobs;

  • Building social protection floors gives a basic level of security – it also empowers and helps to sustain local economies;

  • Organization in cooperatives, associations and unions also provides channels for productive activity and the delivery of services; and

  • Pursuing integrated local development strategies that are gender sensitive and supportive of decent work.

A decent work approach can go a long way towards closing the gender gap in agriculture and enabling rural women to work out of poverty. The impact would be great. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates for example that reducing the poverty gap would reduce the number of undernourished people worldwide by as much as 100 to150 million.

There is much good experience to draw upon and scale up, backed by international support in policy and practice.

On this day, I applaud rural women and ask everyone to recognize their contributions. It is time to unleash the full potential of rural women so that they can take their proper place in efforts to achieve a fair and equitable global economy."


Message du Dr Jean PING, president de la Commission l’Union Africaine:

  1. Cette année encore, l’Afrique, par le truchement et la voix de la Commission de l’Union africaine, est heureuse de se joindre à la Communauté internationale qui célèbre annuellement la Journée internationale de la femme le 8 mars. Je souhaiterais à l’occasion de cette commémoration, féliciter et saluer toutes les femmes africaines où qu’elles soient et quelles que soient leurs activités. Je voudrais aussi les remercier de leur abnégation, de leur courage et de leurs efforts de chaque instant dans la lutte quotidienne pour l’amélioration de la vie de leur famille et partant de leur pays et du Continent !

  2. Cette Journée internationale de la femme 2012 est placée sous le thème : « L’autonomisation des femmes rurales et leur rôle dans l’éradication de la pauvreté et de la faim, le développement et les défis actuels ».

  3. Elle offre notamment l’occasion de mesurer les progrès accomplis et de réfléchir aux défis qui subsistent sur la voie vers l’égalité des genres. Il me plaît en ce jour de rappeler le travail effectué par l’Union Africaine en faveur de l'autonomisation des femmes en Afrique.

  4. L’égalité femmes-hommes et l'autonomisation des femmes sont des valeurs fondamentales inscrites dans l’Acte constitutif de l’Union africaine dont l’objectif primordial est de construire une Afrique à l’abri du besoin et à l’abri de la peur, sur la base de l’égalité entre tous les individus quel que soit leur genre. Cet engagement s’est notamment traduit dans l’adoption du Protocole de la Charte africaine des Droits Humains et des Peuples relatif aux droits des femmes en Afrique et de la Déclaration Solennelle sur l'Égalité entre les sexes en Afrique (SDGEA) respectivement en 2003 et en Juillet 2004. Il a été concrétisé sur le terrain dans la mise en place en février 2009, de la première Politique du genre dont la mise en œuvre vise la promotion et la réalisation de l'égalité entre les hommes et les femmes, ainsi que l'intégration des questions de genre dans l'Agenda africain.

  5. 2010-2020 a été proclamée par ailleurs, par l'Union africaine, Décennie pour les femmes africaines avec pour thème central"approche locale pour l'égalité des sexes et l'autonomisation des femmes".  L'objectif de la Décennie des femmes africaines est de faire progresser l'égalité des sexes en accélérant la mise en œuvre de Dakar, Pékin et les décisions de l'Assemblée de l'UA sur l'égalité des sexes et l'autonomisation des femmes.

  6. L'ancrage de l’engagement de l’Union africaine en faveur de l’autonomisation des femmes, s’est aussi poursuivi à travers le lancement, toujours en 2009, du Fonds pour les femmes africaines, un des projets phares de la Commission. Grâce à ce Fonds, la Commission de l'Union africaine mobilise des ressources financières pour soutenir les programmes et projets de développement pour les femmes, combattre la pauvreté et combler l'écart entre les sexes, mettant ainsi un terme à la marginalisation des femmes africaines.

  7. Chaque année, parmi les 10 thèmes retenus pour la Décenniedes femmes africaines et qui sont :« la lutte contre la pauvreté et la promotion de l'autonomisation économique des femmes et de l'Entrepreneuriat (1), l’Agriculture et la sécurité alimentaire (2), la santé des femmes, la mortalité maternelle et le VIH SIDA (3), l'éducation, la science et la technologie (4), l'Environnement et le changement climatique (5), la paix et la sécurité et la violence faite aux femmes (6), la gouvernance et la protection juridique (7), les Finances et les budgets des genres (8), les femmes en position de décideurs (9), l’accompagnement des jeunes gens et des jeunes filles pour devenir des champions de l'égalité des genres et de l'autonomisation des femmes (10) »,un thème est identifié en vue de sa mise en œuvre.

  8. Pour 2012, le thème choisi par les Ministres en charge du Genre et des Affaires de la Femme des États membres de l'UA est "Agriculture et sécurité alimentaire". Ce choix s’inscrit dans la démarche globale du continent pour faire face aux défis récurrents de la famine enregistrés dans plusieurs de nos régions. Il concourt aussi à renforcer les voies et moyens pour accroître l’accès des femmes à la terre, à la propriété, au crédit, à la technologie, à l’eau. Les femmes seront liées aux marchés par la valeur ajoutée de leurs produits, entretenant ainsi la chaîne d'approvisionnement agricole et créant de nouveaux marchés pour leurs produits.

  9. Il ne fait aucun doute que 2012 est une année charnière pour l'autonomisation des femmes rurales, notamment en Afrique où elles forment pour la plupart l’ossature des économies agricoles de nos pays. Aujourd’hui, nul ne peut contester les progrès notables accomplis sur la voie de l'autonomisation des femmes rurales en Afrique. Ainsi, l'accès à l'éducation des filles a enregistré un taux d’augmentation à tous les niveaux, des mesures ont été prises dans de nombreux pays pour protéger les femmes et les filles contre la violence, assorties de la mise en place d’une législation visant à promouvoir les droits des femmes, notamment l'accès à la terre. De telles avancées n’auraient pu être enregistrées sans la prise de conscience et l’engagement des gouvernements ainsi que des parlementaires de nos États membres à prendre en compte la dimension genre dans tous les secteurs de la vie de leurs nations avec une mention particulière dans la mise en œuvre du CAADP.

  10. Cependant, beaucoup de chemin reste encore à parcourir pour atteindre les objectifs énoncés dans la Plate-forme d'action de Beijing, la Convention des Nations Unies sur l'élimination de toutes les formes de discrimination à l'égard des femmes, le Protocole de l'UA sur les droits de la femme et la Déclaration solennelle sur l'égalité des sexes en Afrique. Aussi bien au niveau mondial qu’au plan continental, la parité hommes-femmes, consacrée par la Charte des Nations Unies en 1945, puis par le 3ème Objectif du Millénaire (promouvoir l’égalité des genres et l’autonomisation des femmes) en 2000, semble demeurer encore au stade de l’aspiration dans de trop nombreux domaines.

  11. Ce constat est encore plus avéré en ce qui concerne la condition des femmes rurales qui constituent sur le continent plus de 70c/o de la main d’œuvre agricole et restent des acteurs invisibles, mal protégés et souvent non-payés du tout. Selon l’UNESCO, 80c/o des 67 millions d’enfants qui ne vont pas à l’école, vivent en milieu rural, la majorité étant des filles. Les taux d’analphabétisme dans les régions rurales sont presque deux fois plus élevés qu’en zone urbaine, et encore plus élevés chez les femmes. Cette situation empêche le progrès vers des objectifs de développement et fait obstacle à la croissance économique rurale. La crise alimentaire et économique mondiale de même que les changements climatiques n’ont fait qu’aggraver la situation. On estime par exemple que 60% des personnes victimes de famine chronique sont des femmes et des filles.

  12. Paradoxalement, on parle toujours du potentiel inexploité des femmes dans l’éradication de l’extrême pauvreté et dans l’amélioration de la sécurité alimentaire. Ainsi, des voix autorisées soulignent que si les femmes bénéficiaient du même accès aux ressources productives que les hommes, elles pourraient augmenter les récoltes de leurs exploitations agricoles de 20 à 30%, permettant de sortir de la famine de 100 à 150 millions de personnes.

  13. Nous devons donc poursuivre et renforcer sans relâche les efforts que nous avons engagés comme par exemple, améliorer l’éducation des femmes et des filles en milieu rural, renforcer leur accès aux soins et la protection de leurs droits, ce qui constitue une solution centrale pour atteindre l’égalité des genres et l’éradication de la pauvreté.

  14. La création d’ONU Femmes, Organe des Nations Unies pour l’égalité des sexes et l’autonomisation de la femme, l’année dernière a été un signal fort lancé par la Communauté internationale quant à sa détermination à avancer dans la concrétisation de ses objectifs. Pour sa part, l’Afrique qui n’est pas en reste, réaffirme son attachement à promouvoir la dignité et la valorisation de la femme ainsi que l’autonomisation des femmes rurales et nous encourageons toute initiative et toute forme d’appui et de soutien dans ce sens. La Commission pour ce qui la concerne, poursuivra ses engagements conformément à la Politique du Genre de l’Union.

  15. Je vous remercie et bonne fête à toutes les Femmes et les filles africaines !

Press release of OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Irish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Eamon Gilmore.

Promoting gender equality and ensuring women’s participation in political, public and economic spheres must be central to the work of the OSCE and all 56 participating States, said the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Ireland's Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore today marking International Women’s Day.

“Achieving a more secure, peaceful and democratic OSCE area in the long term is impossible without full and equal participation of women,” Eamon Gilmore stressed. “The Irish Chairmanship of the OSCE calls on the participating States to implement all of the gender-related commitments in politico-military, economic and environmental, as well as human dimension areas, and will continue to examine ways to integrate into the activities of the Organisation the relevant parts of UN Security Council resolution 1325 and related resolutions.”

He underlined the significant role of women and the need to ensure their increased representation in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peace-building. “The participation of women in conflict resolution and peace processes is essential for establishing constructive dialogue with all stakeholders, and for accommodating all gender-specific concerns at all stages of the conflict cycle.”

The Chairperson emphasised that “Gender-based violence remains a most serious problem, affecting women in all countries, of all classes and all backgrounds.  Preventing violence against women is one of the key commitments contained in the OSCE Action Plan for the Promotion of Gender Equality and requires systematic follow-up.  The Irish Chairmanship will seek to focus greater attention on this issue during 2012.”

The Chairperson stressed also the importance of promoting equal opportunity for women in the economic sphere, including labour market participation. “We need to address obstacles which prevent women from fulfilling their potential and effectively contributing to economic security and prosperity in the OSCE region,” he said, adding that this is increasingly important in times of economic hardship.

The Chairperson stressed the commitment of the Irish Chairmanship to advancing gender equality within the OSCE and its participating States, saying “I decided earlier this year to appoint an OSCE Special Representative on Gender Issues, Ms June Zeitlin. In addition to identifying key programmatic issues that could advance gender equality commitments in OSCE states, I have asked her to explore ways to increase coordination on gender issues within and between the OSCE Secretariat and Institutions, and to identify barriers to increasing representation of women in the OSCE, particularly in senior positions.

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Chiara Guidetti
13 March 2012

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