Importance of Women Empowerment for Development and Peace
The EPD celebrates the International Women's Day on March 8 and thereby the economic, political and social achievements of women in the past, present and future. Particularly, the EPD acknowledges the challenges ahead, in terms of enhancing women's positions in political decision-making and the corresponding potentially positive contributions to developmental and peace processes.
Inés Alberdi, the UNIFEM Executive Director emphasizes that 2010 is a milestone year for women's rights and gender equality, since the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the 10th anniversary of the Millennium Development Goals show us areas of progress but also call on the global community to put more efforts into changing unbearable situations of women to the better, especially with regard to issues of health access, violence and political participation.
Accordingly, the theme of this year's International Women's Day is "Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for all". Women and girls around the world have been able to experience substantial improvements in fields like education since 1995. Nevertheless, women need to be more empowered to prevent and recover from discrimination and abuse as well as to exercise their political and civic rights in order to be able to push forward agendas of political and social change. Progress in reducing maternal mortality as stated in goal five of the MDGs lacks considerably behind. 70 percent of women and girls worldwide become victims of violence in their lifetime and sexual violence becomes a weapon in armed conflicts and war. Gender perspectives often find hardly entrance in policymaking since women are heavily underrepresented in political institutions. Significantly, the inclusion of gender perspectives into governance and decentralization processes would not only be beneficial for the wellbeing of women, but also for obtaining equitable and inclusive human sustainable development, according to UN-INSTRAW. Concerning legislative authority, UN-INSTRAW points to the huge gap between the 15.9 percent worldwide average of women in parliament and the estimation that at least 30 percent are needed to talk about a female influence in decision making. Even more alarming are figures about women holding executive power. Although there have been increases in the number of women in judicial positions, they are often denied access to the highest courts. Notably, female political action is expressed in informal political structures, such as Non-Governmental Organizations and the social movements which is often the starting sphere for later female policymakers.
In his message to the current International Women's Day, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon reaffirms the meaning of the theme "Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for all" by stressing once gain the duality of gender equality and women's empowerment. Both aims are a matter of human rights and beyond that; they have "an economic and social imperative" which means that "until women and girls are liberated from poverty and injustice, all our goals - peace, security sustainable development - stand in jeopardy."