World Marks International Women's Day

Countries around the world are marking International Women's Day, celebrating the gains made by women in business, politics and education. But United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says those gains are not enough.

In a statement Thursday, the U.N. chief warned the world still has "a long way to go" before women and girls universally enjoy the same fundamental rights and freedoms as men. The secretary-general said the disparity is especially troubling for women and girls in rural areas, who make up about one-quarter of the world's population.

Gender Equality Progress

  • Women make up over 40 percent of global labor force.
  • Primary education gender gaps have closed in almost all countries. Secondary education gaps are closing rapidly and have reversed in many countries.
  • Since 1980, women are living longer than men.
  • In many low and middle-income countries, females are more likely to die, relative to males, than their counterparts in rich countries.
  • Women are more likely than men to take on unpaid family labor or informal sector jobs.
  • For women in many low and middle-income countries, sizable gender gaps remain. including in productivity and earnings.
  • In many countries, women, especially poor women, have less say over decisions and less control over household resources.
  • Source: World Bank

The U.N. says the almost half-billion women who work as small farmers or landless workers continually rank at the bottom of almost all economic, social and political indicators.  U.N. officials say that if women had equal access to resources, global agricultural production would rise by 4 percent.  

They also say ensuring women in rural areas have equal access to resources would help make major inroads in the fight against hunger.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also urged governments to do more. She said the failure to capitalize on the potential of women is a global problem.

In the United States, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama are presenting International Women of Courage Awards to women from 10 countries - including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Burma, Sudan and Colombia. The other winners are from Libya, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Turkey, and Brazil.

A State Department official says the awards are meant to highlight the critical role women are playing in growing economies and in contributing to peace and stability.

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