|Sonmati, 18, holds the hand of an elderly woman, sitting amidst a large group of women in the village of Debi, in Gaya District, India. Sonmati, is one of the first women in the village to be educated.|
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NEW YORK, 8 March 2005 - International Women's Day 2005 is a celebration of the progress made in gender equality and a recognition of the work still to be done before women have equal rights and an equal voice.
International Women's Day is observed around the world. The Day is also designated in many countries as a national holiday and is commemorated at the United Nations. Despite ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, women in all countries come together to celebrate the Day, which represents equality, justice, peace and development.
In the decade since the Beijing conference, there have been signs of progress. There is growing recognition that gender equality is a prerequisite for eradicating poverty and promoting sustainable development, as stated in the Millennium Declaration.
The spread of HIV/AIDS has been recognized as a gender issue and a health issue, and the impact of war on women and women's role in peace-building has been recognized and validated by the UN Security Council. Women's human rights — monitored and upheld by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), now ratified by 179 countries — are now on every major agenda, national, regional and international.
Legislation is being drafted in many countries to strengthen women's economic security in such vital areas as land, property and inheritance rights, employment, and access to credit and markets. At least 45 countries today have laws against domestic violence, while over 20 more are drafting new legislation or amending criminal assault laws to include domestic violence.
Governments are beginning to adopt gender-sensitive laws and policies on HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care. Quotas or other affirmative measures have been adopted to increase women's representation in political decision-making in countries in all regions, including many countries emerging from conflict.
And yet progress has been slow. Thirty years after the beginning of the Decade on Women, and ten years after Beijing, it is still a woman's face we see when we speak of poverty, of HIV/AIDS, of violent conflict and social upheaval, of trafficking in human beings. Violence against women, already horrific in times of peace, intensifies during armed conflict, with sexual violence now routinely used as a weapon of war. And women are everywhere disproportionately concentrated in poorly paid, unsafe and insecure jobs, struggling to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
In September, the world's governments will meet to review progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, adopted at the Millennium Summit in 2000. The Millennium Declaration makes clear that gender equality is important not only as a goal in itself, but for achieving all the other goals. If we are to find sustainable solutions to the challenges identified in the Declaration, including both human development and human security, the world's women — one half of its population — must be empowered to contribute their knowledge and insights to the process.