“In too many countries and societies, women remain second-class citizens,” said UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon.
Regardless of the progress made since the first International Women's Day marches in 1911, when only two countries allowed women to vote, more is needed, especially in the areas of women's and children's health and getting women to play a bigger part in decision-making, he said.
“Although the gender gap in education is closing, there are wide differences within and across countries, and far too many girls are still denied schooling, leave prematurely or complete school with few skills and fewer opportunities.
“Women and girls also continue to endure unacceptable discrimination and violence, often at the hand of intimate partners or relatives. In the home and at school, in the workplace and in the community, being female too often means being vulnerable. And in many conflict zones, sexual violence is deliberately and systematically used to intimidate women and whole communities.”
“Only through women’s full and equal participation in all areas of public and private life can we hope to achieve the sustainable, peaceful and just society promised in the United Nations Charter.”
The UN's executive director of women, Michelle Bachelet outlined the aspects of life where women suffer from inequality most: “Girls are still less likely to be in school than boys. Every 90 seconds of every day, a woman dies in pregnancy or due to childbirth-related complications despite us having the knowledge and resources to make birth safe,” she said.
Globally, women still earn less than men for the same work, and in many countries they have unequal access to land and inheritance rights, she stressed.
Every year, on 8 March thousands of events take place across the world to inspire women and celebrate their achievements.This year, the focus is on equal access to education, training, and science and technology. Many global corporations have also started to actively support the day. Search engine Google, for instance, marked the day with a doodle honouring women's achievements.
Today singer, Annie Lennox was joined by the actress, Cherie Lunghi, human rights campaigner, Bianca Jagger, Jude Kelly and Helen Pankhurst, the great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst, leaders in the British suffragette movement, to doves from London's Millennium bridge to highlight the day.