8 March 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my great pleasure to address you at the occasion of this high-profile event to celebrate the International Women’s Day 2012, “Capitalizing on women’s potential in times of crisis”. I welcome this initiative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, illustrating once again the Office’s commitment to women’s rights and gender equality.
The United Nations theme for International Women’s Day 2012 is “Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty”. In line with this theme, The High Commissioner for Human Rights has focused this panel discussion on impact of the current crisis on women and how capitalizing on their potential can lead to more sustainable and just societies. This theme builds on our deliberations over the past several months when considering the consequences of the global financial, economic, food and climate crisis on human rights.
This day is also about pausing to question ourselves, and to question our leaders, about why, after decades, even a century, of activism, we are not closer to achieving women’s equal rights. Women’s poverty and widespread violence against women are some clear indicators that we are nowhere close to our goal of equality. In the area of politics, where so much is decided about the enjoyment of human rights, women are still vastly underrepresented. The Inter-Parliamentary Union reports that worldwide, women constitute less than 20 per cent of Parliamentarians.
On International Women’s Day, as we reflect on progress made but also the remaining challenges in ensuring the full enjoyment by women of their human rights in all spheres of endeavor; I wish to recall that in proclaiming the observance of International Women's Day, the UN General Assembly emphasized that securing peace, social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights requires the active and equal participation of women and men and the acknowledgement of the contribution of women in the strengthening of international peace and security.
This Council has adopted measures and initiatives to contribute to the realization of women`s human rights and advance the achievement of gender equality. In resolution 6/30 the council reaffirms its commitment to effectively integrate the human rights of women as well as a gender perspective, in its work and that of its mechanism in a systematic and transparent manner including in all phases of the Universal Periodic Review, the Advisory Committee and the review of mandates.
In this regard, in 2010, the full day discussion on women rights culminated in 2011 with the establishment of the Working Group on Discrimination against Women in law and in practice. It is our hope that the work of the working group will go a long way in removing key obstacles that hinder progress in ensuring the full enjoyment of women’s human rights.
We place high expectations on the Working Group and the UN system as a whole, as well as other relevant actors to promote a proactive role of the Council in advancing the rights of women. The Council will continue to actively pursue these efforts.
We have heard on 28 February during our panel on human rights mainstreaming, how empowering rural women would greatly reduce hunger and poverty worldwide, for its positive impact not only on women but also on children, and ultimately on the development of the country.
I therefore invite you to reflect on the challenges we are faced with, for the wellbeing of our societies.