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UN Chief Urges Programs to Empower Women


U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon observed International Women's Day with a call for the public and private sectors to step up investment in programs that empower women. From U.N. headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

The secretary-general said there is indisputable evidence that investing in women and girls enhances productivity and sustained economic growth.

"Investing in women is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do," he said. "I am deeply convinced that in women, the world has at its disposal the most significant and yet largely untapped potential for development and peace."

Speaking at a conference in observance of International Women's Day, which is on Saturday, Mr. Ban urged the public and private sectors, as well as multilateral organizations and civil society to increase their role in investing in programs that empower women.

He pointed to the success of programs that offer micro-loans to women, saying they have jumped from 10 million in 1999 to nearly 70 million in 2005.

"When women have access to finances, credit, technologies and markets, they are likely to expand their businesses and contribute effectively to sustained economic growth and development," he added.

The United Nations has pushed for new policies for gender equality and financing for development, but there is still a long way to go. The World Bank estimates that 64 percent of the world's illiterate adults are women, while girls account for the majority of the world's 113 million children aged six to 11 who do not attend school.

Celebrated on March 8, International Women's Day is the global day recognizing all women around the world and intended to inspire them to achieve their full potential. In many countries it is an official holiday.