Helen Clark: International Women's Day

08 Mar 2011

Statement by UNDP Administrator Helen Clark
International Women's Day
March 8, 2011

On this 100th International Women’s Day, we can dream of how the world can look if women have equal rights and opportunities to reach their full potential.  

Empowered women and girls have a truly transformative role to play in all our societies, with benefits for all.  Around the world, healthy, educated, employed, and empowered women break poverty cycles – not only for themselves, but for their families, communities, and countries too.

This year, International Women’s Day highlights the participation of women and girls in education, training, science and technology. It also focuses our attention on the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work.

Advances are being made in many areas, but no yet fast enough.  For example, less than 10 per cent of countries have women heads of state or government, and only 19 per cent of the world’s parliamentarians are women.  

While more women than ever before are participating in the work force, almost two-thirds of women in the developing world work in the informal economy without labour rights and social protection. Globally, women are more likely to be jobless, and to have borne the worst setbacks of the economic crisis.

Although the gender gap in education is closing, there are wide differences within and across countries. More than 30 million girls around the world are missing out on education. Yet educated women and girls have more choices, are able to have higher living standards, are more likely to seek medical care during pregnancy, and ensure that their children are vaccinated and better nourished.   Those children are then more likely to go to school and carry on the benefits of education to their communities and future generations.  

Investing in women and girls is crucial for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  This was a key message in UNDP’s International Assessment of what it will take to achieve the MDGs.

From huge national projects to smaller-scale initiatives, UNDP works to support countries to reduce gender inequalities and improve the lives of women.

For example, in El Salvador, a country with one of the highest murder rates of women, UNDP and sister UN agencies worked with women parliamentarians to support the passage of a groundbreaking Bill to address violence against women.

In Lebanon, more than 40 women’s co-operatives have formed across the country to revitalize communities which were economically devastated by conflict.

The United Nations’ commitment to investing in women and girls is absolute and resolute.  With the creation of UN Women, the UN has an organization devoted to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment.  UN Women, working together with the UN country teams around the world, will play a vital role in promoting and achieving gender equality, and UNDP is committed to a strong partnership with UN Women to this end.