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Due donne, una vecchia ed una giovane
© UNESCO/Sayyed Nayyer Reza

8 marzo: centesimo anniversario della Giornata internazionale della donna

L’8 marzo 2011 si celebra in tutto il mondo il centesimo anniversario della Giornata internazionale della donna, istituita nel 1911 dall’Internazionale socialista, per ricordare la lunga lotta di tutte le donne per una partecipazione attiva alle scelte della società in cui vivono, e per la rivendicazione di un ruolo da protagoniste della vita culturale, economica e politica del Paese di appartenenza, su un piano di parità rispetto agli uomini.

Le Nazioni Unite hanno cominciato a celebrare l’8 marzo a partire dal 1975 nel corso dell’Anno internazionale delle donne. Quest’anno, inoltre, per la prima volta tale ricorrenza sarà festeggiata da UN Women, il nuovo organismo delle Nazioni Unite per la promozione e le potezione delle donne.

Il tema delle celebrazioni per il centesimo anniversario è Eguale accesso all’educazione, alla formazione, alla scienza e alla tecnologia: via per un lavoro adeguato per le donne.

Eventi celebrativi sono stati promossi da organizzazioni internazionali e regionali e dalle loro agenzie specializzate, nonchè da organizzazioni di società civile in tutto il mondo. Una lista delle principali iniziative  è consultabile attraverso i collegamenti web proposti a fondo pagina

Inoltre, come ogni anno, il Segretario Generale e l’Alto Commissario per i diritti umani delle Nazioni Unite hanno presentato un messaggio in occasione delle celebrazioni che proponiamo di seguito, in lingua inglese.


Secretary-General's Message on International Women's Day, 8 March 2011

One hundred years ago, when the world first commemorated International Women’s Day, gender equality and women’s empowerment were largely radical ideas.  On this centenary, we celebrate the significant progress that has been achieved through determined advocacy, practical action and enlightened policy making.  Yet, in too many countries and societies, women remain second-class citizens. 

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.

My UNiTE to End Violence Against Women campaign, along with its Network of Men Leaders, is working to end impunity and change mindsets.  There is also growing international resolve to punish and prevent sexual aggression in conflict, and to do more to implement the Security Council’s landmark resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, which highlights the importance of involving women in all aspects of building and keeping peace. 

Another area where we urgently need to see significant progress is on women’s and children’s health.  The September 2010 Summit on the Millennium Development Goals recognized the central importance of this issue, and Member States and the philanthropic community have pledged strong support for my global strategy to save lives and improve the health of women and children over the next four years.

In the realm of decision-making, more women, in more countries, are taking their rightful seat in parliament.  Yet fewer than 10 per cent of countries have female heads of state or government.  Even where women are prominent in politics, they are often severely under-represented in other areas of decision-making, including at the highest levels of business and industry.  A recent UN initiative – the Women’s Empowerment Principles, now embraced by more than 130 major corporations – aims to redress this imbalance.

This year’s observance of International Women’s Day focuses on equal access to education, training and science and technology.  Cell phones and the Internet, for example, can enable women to improve the health and well-being of their families, take advantage of income-earning opportunities, and protect themselves from exploitation and vulnerability.  Access to such tools, backed up by education and training, can help women to break the cycle of poverty, combat injustice and exercise their rights.

The launch this year of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women – UN Women – demonstrates our intent to deepen our pursuit of this agenda.  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.

Ban Ki-moon


International Women’s Day, Statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 8 March 2011

On this day, I salute the women of the Middle East and North Africa, along with women all over the world who are taking great risks to stand up and fight for dignity, justice and human rights for themselves and for their compatriots. In Egypt and Tunisia, women were on Twitter, on Facebook, and on the streets. Women from all walks of life were marching alongside men, pushing boundaries and breaking gender stereotypes, just as eager for change, for human rights and for democracy.

The work, however, is far from over. In these moments of historic transition in Egypt and Tunisia, it is important to ensure that women’s rights are not set aside as something to be dealt with after the ‘crucial’ reforms are won. Women’s rights should be at the top of the list of new priorities. While women have played an important role in the call for change, concerns have already been raised that constitutional reviews and the development of reforms are undertaken without their full participation. In fact, there are worrying signs about the content of some proposed reforms in Egypt being downright discriminatory. The women and men in the Middle East and North Africa must ensure this is not the case.

Education benefited women in Tunisia and Egypt, enhancing their human rights, including their participation in the political and economic life of their countries. Yet, like other members of society, women suffered the impact of repression, corruption and lack of social justice. Many women in Tunisia and Egypt endured torture, were arbitrary detained, and silenced. Their privacy was invaded and their family life violated. They were the first to suffer from job cuts and continue to constitute the highest number of unemployed. Salary discrepancies between men and women in the private sector have been striking. Representation in public life remained limited. In addition, discriminatory laws and policies based on gender stereotypes continued to negatively impact their work.

Women in the Middle East and North Africa today expect their state to work for the benefit of all - not only a few. They expect it to uphold their dignity and worth, and to adopt laws, policies, and strategies that translate these words into tangible results. They expect transparent and inclusive processes that allow their voices to be heard and their views to be taken seriously. They expect public and inclusive debates and a responsible and accountable government that delivers on human rights and social justice. In other words, participation, accountability and justice, and equity are their non-negotiable demands.

All over the world, major disparities remain between female and male access to education, employment and salaries. While women are the world’s main food producers and their working hours are longer than those of men, women earn only 10 percent of the world’s income and own less than one percent of property worldwide. Women comprise nearly two-thirds of the world’s 759 million illiterate adults. Even in regions with high rates of female literacy, women’s wages continue to be lower than those of men, even for work of equal value. While equal access to education is a key factor to enhance women’s empowerment and gender equality in employment, it is clearly not enough unless de facto and de jure discrimination are addressed at a broader level.

Only when women participate fully in policy-making and institution-building will their perspective be truly integrated. The concept of democracy is only truly realised when political decision-making is shared by women and men, and women’s full participation in institutional re-building is guaranteed.

Societies in which women are excluded, formally or informally, from public life, cannot be described as truly democratic, as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has warned time and again. Women must be able to shape the future of their countries by being involved in institutional reforms from the beginning. Women’s full participation is essential not only for their empowerment, but for the advancement of society as a whole.

The euphoria in Egypt and in Tunisia was shared by men and women around the world. These are historic events, and hopefully the heralds of great and lasting change. Let us now work together to ensure that the momentum does not fade away with the euphoria.

Let us ensure that women’s rights are at the foundation of these new beginnings, and let us be vigilant against any retrogression.

Let us also today stand in solidarity with women in every corner of the world who are working for positive change in their families, their communities and in their countries.

Navi Pillay