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World falling short on promises to women and girls

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UNICEF Executive Director Rima Salah.

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NEW YORK, 8 March 2005 - UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah spoke today at the Beijing +10 conference being held 28 February - 11 March in New York. Ms. Salah gave an overview of key achievements worldwide for women’s rights and equality, and underlined some of the critical challenges which must be met.

The Beijing + 10 event is an opportunity for world leaders to review progress made on women’s issues since the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995.

In her remarks, Ms. Salah noted that more girls than ever before attend school; an increasing number of countries have adopted legal frameworks for the protection of women and girls; and there has been increased interest in addressing gender-based discrimination.

However, much more is needed in order to fulfil the pledges made by world leaders 10 years ago at the Beijing Conference.

“2005 is a year of accountability,” said Ms. Salah. “Despite positive steps forward, we are still far from fulfilling the promises made in Beijing. Worldwide, the majority of primary school aged children out of school continues to be girls. The rising proportions of girls and young women worldwide living with HIV is another cause for deep concern.”

Ms. Salah said that gender based discrimination and violence are playing a major role in fuelling the spread of HIV/AIDS among women and girls, especially in areas of conflict. Rape, sexual exploitation and abuse are all gross violations of the rights of girls and women. “Over the past two decades, the use of rape and sexual violence has increased as a deliberate tactic of war - a way of demoralizing, humiliating and destabilizing entire communities and families,” said Ms. Salah.

Ms. Salah also pointed out that over 130 million women have undergone female genital mutilation. In addition, 100 million girls will be married as children over the next decade. Ms. Salah called for concrete actions for the world to achieve the goals set out ten years ago:

  • Governments must make girls’ education a priority in their national programs and policies.
  • The international community must honour its commitment to ensure that all countries with credible education plans are supported in order to secure implementation.
  • Governments must hold perpetrators of sexual violence during armed conflict in violation of international law, while regarding those who authorize such attacks as war criminals.
  • International and national courts must have adequate resources and capacity to ensure gender-sensitive programmes for victims of gender-based crimes, along with witness protection, in order to more effectively prosecute those responsible for gender-based crimes.
  • Governments must strengthen the participation and contribution of women - and groups promoting women and children - at national, regional and international levels.

Ms. Salah ended her speech today by quoting 14-year-old Nelly, a young Cameroon girl, whom she recently chatted with over the Internet. In Nelly’s words: “Young people should participate. Girls should have the same opportunities as boys. All girls should be able to go to school - like me.”




8 March 2005:
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah speaks at the Beijing +10 conference, calling for more concrete actions to advance women and girls’ equality.

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