International Women's Day Special: Faces of strength and courage

Mar 8, 2009


Female entrepreneurs in Turkmenistan | watch larger version

Faces of Strength & Courage: Women in Syria and Yemen | watch larger version


UNDP's work in women's empowerment


UNDP staff about the challenges that women face in the following areas:


International Women’s Day on March 8, 2009, is an opportunity to remind the world of women’s economic, political and social achievements. Gender equality is crucial for the development process and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Despite the progress that has been made, women represent 60 percent of the world’s poorest, less than 16 percent of the world's parliamentarians, two-thirds of the world’s illiterate and, both in times of armed conflict and behind closed doors at home, they are still systematically subjected to violence. Yet, stories of women show resilience, strength and courage. They are key players in democratic governance, poverty alleviation, crisis prevention, environment protection and response to HIV/AIDS.

Democratic Governance - In January 2008, seven out of 150 elected heads of state and eight out of 192 heads of governments were women. Overall, only 16 percent of ministerial posts worldwide are being held by women. Despite the difficulties, Dr. Jacinta Correia in East Timor is an example of a woman with a real voice in governance institutions. Through UNDP partnerships, they now take important decisions that help determine the future of their families and countries.
Poverty Reduction and the MDGs - Women comprise more than 50 percent of the world's population, but own only one percent of the world's wealth. Seventy-five percent of the world's women cannot get formal bank loans due to lack of permanent employment and other goods to offer as security. This is why governments, private sector and all of society have to reduce gender inequalities: it is a crucial step to reduce poverty.  But women have made strides. In Turkmenistan, women are transforming their crafts into thriving enterprises through partnerships with UNDP.  In the Ruhiira Millennium Village in Uganda, medically-supervised infant deliveries have risen thanks to UNDP’s distribution of health kits.
Crisis Prevention and Recovery - Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. The United Nations Secretary-General renewed the call to end violence against women and girls.  In crisis and post-crisis situations, violence against women is further aggravated and continues to be a challenging concern. Every day, some 50,000 people, mostly women and children, die as a result of poor shelter, polluted water and inadequate sanitation. UNDP staff in Sudan (streaming | mp3), Myanmar (streaming | mp3) and Gaza (streaming | mp3) talk about the challenges that women face in conflict areas.

Environment and Sustainable Development - The world’s poorest and most vulnerable people – 60 percent of whom are women – are dependent on their natural environment to earn a living and feed their families. In poor regions, women and girls are responsible for tending fields, grinding grain and collecting water. An estimate suggests that women in sub-Saharan Africa spend 40 billion hours a year collecting water – equivalent of a year’s worth of labor by the entire workforce in France. In Kenya fetching water may use up to 85% of a woman’s daily energy intake. But when women engage in a cause, there is no mountain high enough. In Nepal, women climbed Mount Everest  to raise awareness about environment and gender equality.

Responding to HIV and AIDS - Almost half the HIV-positive people in the world are now women, but in Africa, where the epidemic has stretched the furthest, young women are three times more likely to be HIV-positive than young men. Gender inequality leaves women with less control than men over their bodies and their lives. They face barriers to the negotiation of safe sex that include economic dependency and violence. In Ecuador, UNDP and the Ecuadorian Coalition of Persons Living With HIV/AIDS trained 400 leaders who are engaging over 50,000 people in prevention and activism aimed at reducing discrimination, with a focus on women living with HIV.

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UNDP's work in crisis prevention and recovery:

Remarks by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on International Women's Day

UNite to End Violence Against Women: target="new"

United Nations Development Fund for Women:

UNDP Around the world