International Women’s Day 2012 – UN System Observances

UN System Observances

International Women’s Day 2012

In 1975, during International Women’s Year, the United Nations began celebrating 8 March as International Women’s Day. Two years later, in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions. For the United Nations, International Women’s Day has been observed on 8 March since 1975. The Day is traditionally marked with a message from the Secretary-General.

The official United Nations theme for International Women’s Day 2012 is: “Empower Rural Women — End Hunger and Poverty.” Below is a summary of UN system observances and related links for IWD 2012.

Related Feature: The UN System: Working Together to Empower Rural Women

United Nations

Message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Occasion of International Women’s Day

Gender equality and the empowerment of women are gaining ground worldwide. There are more women Heads of State or Government than ever, and the highest proportion of women serving as Government ministers. Women are exercising ever greater influence in business. More girls are going to school, and are growing up healthier and better equipped to realize their potential.

Despite this momentum, there is a long way to go before women and girls can be said to enjoy the fundamental rights, freedom and dignity that are their birthright and that will guarantee their well-being. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the world’s rural areas. Rural women and girls — to whom this year’s International Women’s Day is devoted — make up one quarter of the global population, yet routinely figure at the bottom of every economic, social and political indicator, from income and education to health to participation in decision-making.

Read More: Arabic [forthcoming] | Chinese | English | French| Russian | Spanish

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International Fund for Agricultural Development

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International Labour Organization (ILO)

Message from ILO Director-General Juan Somavia on the Occasion of International Women’s Day

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.

Read more: English | French | Spanish

Related Links

  • ILO High-level Panel Debate: Empower Rural Women — End Hunger and Poverty 12:30-14:30, Geneva Time, 8 March, ILO Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland English | French | Spanish
  • Gender Equality in the Rural Sector — The Ever-present Challenge Interview with Jane Hodges, Director, ILO Bureau for Gender Equality English | French | Spanish
  • Background Paper: Empower Rural Women — End Poverty and Hunger English | French | Spanish

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

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United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Message from UNDP Administrator Helen Clark on the Occasion of International Women’s Day

A few weeks ago I spoke with women farmers in Niger who are growing vegetables in some of the harshest climatic conditions on earth. With severe drought a recurring problem in their country and across the Sahel, access to water for irrigation and to appropriate seeds, fertilisers, advisory services, and credit are all important for overcoming food shortages and malnutrition.

Rural women account for nearly half the agricultural labor force and are custodians of traditional knowledge about the land and their local environment. Backed by small development investments, rural women can lead the way in building food and nutrition security for their families and communities, and thus in building resilience to future extreme weather events. Read more »

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United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

Message from Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova on the Occasion of International Women’s Day

Too often marginalised, women living in rural settings face steep challenges to the exercise of their human rights, their personal development and the pursuit of their aspirations. Across the world, this is weakening societies and holding back their development. Tackling this problem is the goal of the 2012 International Women’s Day.

In studies of progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, rural women fare consistently worse than rural men, as well as urban women and men, on every indicator for which there is data. Education provides stark illustration. Girls from rural areas are far less likely to go to school than either rural boys or urban boys and girls. Women make up two thirds of the world’s 796 million illiterate people, many of whom live in rural areas. In Cambodia, 48 percent of rural women are illiterate compared to 14 percent of rural men. In Iraq, nearly 50 percent of young rural women between the ages of 15 and 24 are illiterate. Read more »

Related Links

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

Video Message from UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres on the Occasion of International Women’s Day 2012

On occasion of International Women’s Day 2012, Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, commends rural women and urges their full empowerment. She takes this opportunity to issue a “call to action NOW” — action on both mitigation and adaptation. Specifically, she invites interested persons to interact with UNFCCC and to share planned initiatives or lessons learned on its Facebook page Read more »



United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Message from UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin on the Occasion of International Women’s Day 2012

Today, on International Women’s Day, UNFPA renews its commitment to gender equality and human rights and dignity.

Many rural women have limited autonomy and low status, which puts them at increased risk of hunger, gender-based violence and other human rights violations. Advancing rural women’s political, social and economic status are vital ends in themselves as well as critical strategies to eradicate poverty, promote women’s rights and pave the way for sustainable development.

Improving access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights is essential for rural women’s empowerment and ability to earn an income and feed themselves and their family. When women can make free and informed choices in all spheres of life, including marriage and number and spacing of their children, they can reach their full potential and further contribute to the development of their communities and nations. Read more »

Related Links

United Nations Volunteers (UNV)

Message from UNV Executive Coordinator Flavia Pansieri on the Occassion of International Women’s Day

Today, International Women’s Day gives us the chance to recognize the invaluable contributions women make around the world, and mark the challenges we still have to meet to achieve gender equality. We must also celebrate the gains that have been made.

United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is continuously working for the empowerment of women and youth as a vital element to attain sustainable development. What is more, UNV recognizes that it is often women who have a strong impact in changing the conditions around them. They often do this by engaging as volunteers in their communities. UNV promotes volunteerism as a means for women to gain the skills, experience and confidence to voice their concerns, and to influence and take their rightful places among the decision-makers in their communities.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently highlighted the importance of addressing the needs of women and young people to ensure their full participation in peacebuilding and social and economic development in his action agenda for the next five years. Working with and for women and young people is one of his five priorities. UNV cooperates with its civil partners as well as the United Nations to build the capacities of women and youth to ensure their full participation in their communities. We will continue to do so. The commitment of UNV to provide women with a greater say in their destiny is absolute. [Full statement will be available on the UNV website on 8 March]

Related Links

  • UNV and Rural Women [pdf] UNV supports the empowerment of rural women to end hunger and poverty through different activities and initiatives such as knowledge products and training, the development of inter-agency mechanisms and South-South cooperation. The document showcases specific project examples.

UN Women

Message from Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director UN Women Michelle Bachelet on the Occasion of International Women’s Day

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.

Read more: Arabic | English | Chinese | French | Japanese | Russian | Spanish

Related Video Message

On International Women’s Day, 8 March 2012, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet calls for women’s equal participation in all spheres of life as fundamental to democracy and justice.

Video message available in: English | French | Spanish



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