For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No:   UNIS/GA1622
Release Date:    8 March 2000
 General Assembly President, in Message, Says International Women’s Day
Symbolic Acknowledgment of Women’s vast Contributions to Society

 NEW YORK, 7 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of the President of the General Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia), on the occasion of International Women’s Day, observed 8 March:

 Every day of every year is women’s day, for what would our world be without over half of humankind?  The fact that we observe 8 March as International Women’s Day is merely a symbolic acknowledgement of the vast contributions that women make daily in society as mothers, nurturers, caregivers, educators, and as active participants in every endeavour known to humankind.

 International Women’s Day is an occasion to review how far women have come in their struggle for liberation, peace, equality and development.  It is also an opportunity for both sexes to unite, network and mobilize for meaningful change, as we take up the challenge of making this the age of women's full participation in leadership and decision-making.

 What distinguished this year’s observance is that it is the first International Women’s Day of the new millennium and of the twenty-first century.  This will provide a platform for women around the world, who are demanding a stronger voice and a role in peace negotiations and peace-building strategies.  “Women Uniting for Peace” is this year’s theme, and focuses on the role of women as peacemakers.  International Women’s Day 2000 will stress the important role women must play in negotiating for peace at the local and international levels.

 To this day, the strategies that have been applied to peace negotiations have at least one thing in common:  they have almost entirely ignored women’s visions for peace and contributions for social change.  But women’s virtual exclusion from the negotiating table should not be mistaken for a lack of involvement in the search for peace.  On the contrary, women throughout the centuries have worked hard for peace by actively keeping their families, communities and countries intact.  Just last week, during the forty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, the United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM) launched a publication entitled “Women at the Peace Table:  Making a Difference”, at which women who are making a difference in resolving conflicts in many regions of the world told their stories.
 While political negotiations on peace and security remain an almost entirely male domain, women in all regions of the world are challenging their exclusion and lobbying for an equal place at the peace table.  When women participate in peace talks, they bring new perspectives and make substantial contributions to the process.  We must ask ourselves if we, as a world community, can afford to ignore women’s voices when representatives of warring factions meet at the negotiating table.  Could it be that the solutions women are proposing are the solutions the world is looking for, to build bridges between warring communities?  Can we afford not to give women’s visions a chance?

 Women know intimately the horrific warfare and bloodshed that they face daily in conflict zones, but they also know the conditions that need to be met to ensure that the peace in their countries is sustainable, equitable and just.  Women and children are the first victims of conflicts.  Is it any wonder, then, that women are uniting to end the conflicts that destroy the lives of their loved ones, as well as of their communities?  Women are half of every community.  Are they, therefore, not also half of every solution?

 Women can and do make a difference.  It is in that light that I endorse the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) media initiative -- “8 March:  Women Make the News” -? which calls on the international media to ensure that progressive women journalists have editorial charge of the news on International Women’s Day.  Similar initiatives should be undertaken to enable women to showcase their abilities as the equals of men.

 In celebration of the contributions of women, the General Assembly will hold a special session, from 5 to 9 June, entitled “Women 2000:  Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-First Century”.  The Special Session will undertake the five-year review of the progress made in implementing the Beijing Platform of Action adopted in 1995.  It will focus on examples of good practices, positive actions, lessons learned, obstacles and key challenges remaining in further advancing the status of women everywhere, and will also consider further initiatives for achieving gender equality in this new millennium.

 The General Assembly will hold another special session, this one on the World Summit for Social Development, from 26 to 30 June in Geneva, where Member States will review the progress made in implementing the outcome of the 1995 Social Summit, and recommend further initiatives to advance the social development agenda.  The Programme of Action adopted five years ago called for greater efforts to eradicate poverty, promote employment possibilities and to promote social integration, all of which are most relevant to women.

 On this International Women’s Day 2000, I salute women the world over, and pay proud tribute to the contributions that they have made and continue to make every day to protect and secure humankind.

* * * * *