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UN Chief Urges Gender Equality on International Women's Day

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Margaret Besheer

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marked International Women's Day Wednesday calling for gender equality and the empowerment of women, saying that until women and girls are liberated from poverty and injustice; peace, security and sustainable development stand in jeopardy.  

International Women's Day will be marked around the world on Monday, but the United Nations has begun official observances on the sidelines of the Commission on the Status of Women conference, which has brought more than 2,000 women together from around the world at U.N. headquarters.

The Commission is reviewing progress on women's rights in the 15 years since the so-called Beijing Declaration platform of action was agreed. That sets out the framework for advancing equality, development and peace for the world's women.

Addressing the delegates, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said there has been a great deal of progress since 1995 of which everyone should be proud, but not complacent.

"A growing number of countries have policies and legislation that support gender equality and reproductive health," said Ban Ki-moon. "Most girls now receive an education, particularly at primary level. Women are now more likely to run businesses and be given loans.  Women are also now more likely to participate in government."

He said civil society, particularly women's groups, have played a major role in these gains.

"Women everywhere are mobilizing for equality and empowerment - and succeeding," he said.

But he warned that injustice and discrimination against women continue to persist everywhere.  He said it comes in various forms - in its worst - as violence, but also in early and forced marriage, so-called 'honor killing', sexual abuse and trafficking.

Among the ways the United Nations hopes to eliminate gender inequality is through the creation of a women's agency that would provide more coherent programming and a stronger voice for women.

The U.N. chief said he is also trying to lead by example.  Under his tenure, the number of women holding senior U.N. posts has risen 40 percent.   

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