Guatemala City, Guatemala, 21 January
2009 - Secretary-General's message to Second Ministerial
Meeting of the Non-aligned Movement on the Advancement of
Women [Delivered by Rachel Mayanja, UN Special Adviser on
Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women]
This Second Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Aligned
Movement on the Advancement of Women offers a valuable
opportunity to push for greater progress on the critical
issue of gender equality.
Women's empowerment is an important goal in itself - but it
is also the key to realizing all of the other major
international development targets. That is because healthy,
productively employed and politically engaged women can
drive efforts to eradicate hunger, disease and poverty.
Since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals,
there has been remarkable progress on the gender agenda,
with countries working to reduce inequalities in education,
employment and political representation.
But we have a long road ahead. Too many girls cannot get an
education beyond primary school. And even if they do, they
struggle to find a job. Women continue to face higher
unemployment rates than men. And women who do work are often
stuck in low-paying jobs with little security.
To truly empower women on the labor market, we must promote
decent work principles: equity in pay, a reduction in
occupational segregation, and support for women's
entrepreneurship. We must also take measures that allow both
women and men to balance work and family life.
We should also increase women's access to political
decision-making while raising their stature in other arenas,
such as the private sector, academia, civil society and the
Above all, we need to intensify action on maternal health,
the goal on which progress has been the slowest. We must
work to provide universal access to reproductive health by
2015. More than half a million women die each year because
of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. We
cannot allow this terrible death toll to continue.
Addressing women's public health also means stopping
violence against women. I urge all of you to support the
campaign I have launched to unite the international
community on this issue. The abuse of women is a violation
of human rights and an enormous obstacle to development, and
has no place in our world.
If all of you gathered here today resolve to put the rights,
priorities and contributions of women and girls at the top
of the development agenda, we can make real progress in
helping all people in society. I look forward to working
with you in that endeavour, and offer you my best wishes for
a successful meeting.