Press Releases

30 June 2005

“Let Us Resolve to Empower Women and Girls by Our Commitment to Gender Equality”, Secretary-General Says in Message for World Population Day

NEW YORK, 30 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the message by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for World Population Day, 11 July 2005:

This World Population Day is an occasion to stress the empowering effect of gender equality, and the fact that respect for this human right benefits everyone -- men, women, boys and girls alike.

Equality between men and women is a guiding principle of the United Nations, inscribed in the United Nations Charter.  It is also central to global efforts to free people from fear and want to which nations agreed in the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals.  At the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, equality and women’s empowerment were considered both ends in themselves and cornerstones of development.  Equality goes hand-in-hand with investments in education, economic opportunity and reproductive health, and taken together, these are a powerful force for lifting millions out of poverty.

By contrast, when discrimination prevents true equality, the consequences are grave.  Millions of girls are “missing” from populations because parents preferred the birth of sons.  More girls than boys are out of school, denied their right to an education and the keys to a better life, and impoverishing the communities in which they live.  Poverty, gender discrimination and violence are fuelling the AIDS epidemic, with the number of women and adolescent girls newly infected rising in every region.  And in some regions, alarmingly high levels of maternal mortality are claiming the lives of too many women and depriving children of their mothers’ love and care.

Despite these enormous challenges -- indeed, because of them -- women all over the world are mobilizing to secure their rights.  And they are registering important successes.  Global and national debates on human rights and human development are focusing on issues of gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Many countries are enacting laws and policies that advance women’s rights, and are supporting services to improve and protect women’s health.  More women are participating in politics, and more men are taking responsibility as partners for change.

On this World Population Day, let us resolve to empower women and girls by our commitment to gender equality.  And let us remember that every society that wishes to overcome poverty, hunger, armed conflict and disease must draw fully on the talents and contribution of all of its members.

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