International Women’s Day: 8 March 2008

By | 6 March 2008

International Women’s Day, celebrated internationally each year on 8 March, has for a theme this year “Investing in Women and Girls,” with a strong focus on financing for gender equality at the country level. It will be observed at the United Nations in New York on 6 March 2008.

International Women’s Day has been celebrated since the early 1900s. In 1977 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution inviting Member States to proclaim a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace – International Women’s Day– to be observed on any day of the year in accordance with their historical and national traditions. Since then, the United Nations has observed March 8th as International Women’s Day, which serves to highlight the fact that securing peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms require the active participation, equality and development of women; and to acknowledge the contribution of women to the strengthening of international peace and security.

Commission on the Status of Women
Meeting from 25 February to 7 March 2008, the 52nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) considered one priority theme: Financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women and examined one emerging issue: Gender perspectives on climate change. The report of the Secretary-General on financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women (E/CN.6/2008/2) guided the work of the Commission. It identifies and discusses key issues in financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women and suggests policy recommendations. A second report of the Secretary-General (E/CN.6/2008/5) assesses the extent to which financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women is mainstreamed in policies and programmes at the national level.

The 52nd session of the CSW included a high-level roundtable on financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women. Interactive expert panels were also held, two of them addressed the priority theme, a third one, held on 28 February, focused on the emerging theme gender and climate change, and on 29 February, an interactive dialogue evaluated progress in the review theme “Women’s equal participation in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution and in post-conflict peacebuilding.” A number of informal events were also held. On 5 March NGLS co-hosted with UNIFEM a side event entitled “From Beijing to Doha: Financing MDG 3.” NGLS and UNIFEM also led a series of “Economic Literacy Workshops” designed to improve the capacity of grassroots women’s groups in national and international finance and budgetary discussions. The CSW officially observed Internat! ional Women’s Day during the morning of 6 March with a commemorative event that included a high-level panel.

Further information on the 52nd session of the CSW is available online. A large number of NGO side events were also scheduled. A comprehensive listing of these events is available online.

SG’s Multi-year campaign to end violence against women
Speaking during the opening of the 52nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women on 25 February 2008, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a multi-year campaign to end violence against women that will continue until 2015, to coincide with the target date for the MDGs. The campaign aims to mobilize public opinion to ensure that policy makers at the highest level work to prevent and eradicate violence against women and to secure political will and increased resources from governments, international institutions, UN entities, the private sector and other donors for policies and programmes to combat the problem. The campaign seeks to harness the existing momentum in the General Assembly and the Security Council to take action against all forms of violence a! gainst women, including rape in conflict and post-conflict situations and builds upon decades of work by women activists, women’s groups and other civil society organizations who continue to lead the struggle to expose and counter violence. Further information is available online:

See also: UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict, UNIFEM’s Say NO to violence against women campaign, UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, Human Rights Watch work on sexual violence, International Rescue Committee’s gender-based violence programmes, and PeaceWomen Project.

Gender Responsive Budgeting
Gender Responsive Budgeting website is a collaborative effort between UNIFEM, the Commonwealth Secretariat and Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), which was launched in 2001. The website strives to support efforts of governments, women’s organizations, members of parliaments and academics to ensure that planning and budgeting effectively respond to gender equality goals. It provides a variety of resources, assessments and training materials on gender responsive budgeting and aims to promote cross-regional information-sharing on country experiences and facilitates networking and collaboration amongst countries, civil society and international organizations.

The first issue of the Gender Responsive Budgeting Newsletter, timed to coincide with the 52nd session of CSW, is available online.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) marked International Women’s Day with a new report on labour market trends for women in the world of work and a panel discussion by eminent women bankers and trade unionists on how to invest to create jobs and improve the work lives of women worldwide.

The ILO report, entitled Global Employment Trends for Women, March 2008, provides an update on the state of women in labour markets worldwide. It undertakes a comparative analysis of labour markets at the global and regional levels, delivers the latest data on female labour force participation, unemployment, etc., and addresses a new indicator on the share of women in vulnerable employment. It also analyzes the evolution of female employment by sector over the past decade and the persistent gender gaps in the world of work. See also the ILO Bureau for Gender Equality.

In her message in observance of the Day, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, said, “It is good to invest in women and girls, and it pays to do so. This year, on International Women’s Day, UNFPA reaffirms that investing in women and girls is one of the best investments governments can make.

“Investing in women means investing in families, communities, and nations. When women have resources, they tend to spend them on education and health for their children, who then face better employment and life prospects. In every region, increased women’s participation and earnings result in reduced poverty and faster economic growth.

“If we want to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, we need more investments in women and girls. Whether we are looking at it from a human rights, political or economic point of view, the conclusion is the same: It makes sense to invest in women. The returns are high for women themselves and for the world at large.” The full statement is available online.

Women Make the News 2008, UNESCO’s global operation to promote gender equality in the media, will be launched for the eighth year on the occasion of IWD 2008 with the aim of encouraging news media to give editorial responsibility to women editors and journalists on that Day. Women’s Untold Stories has been chosen as the theme for Women Make the News 2008 to raise media managers’ awareness of female journalists’ and editors’ professional abilities so as to improve their career development opportunities in the newsroom and establish gender equality. As part of the operation, UNESCO invites women to produce news stories and features. Articles and news products will be uploaded onto a dedicated website:

To commemorate IWD, UNHCR launched its Handbook for the Protection of Women and Girls on 6 March in Geneva. A number of events will take place in the field. UNHCR Harare is organizing in the Tongogara refugee camp activities from 10-13 March on issues ranging from HIV and AIDS and reproductive health advocacy, life skills development for equipping teenagers with necessary skills for their self-reliance, gender based violence (GBV) sensitization, and a day of drama, music and poetry to highlight the need to combat GBV and to empower women.

On 7 March, the OECD Development Centre is launching a new platform for dialogue on gender equality at OECD headquarters in Paris. “” is an online resource that aims to gather experts and the general public with one clear objective: sharing knowledge on issues related to gender equality for a better understanding of the situation of women around the world. E-mail: URL:

Since 1984, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) has worked with other NGOs to organize a seminar linking IWD with disarmament, peace and security issues and produces an NGO statement. The seminar is timed to coincide with the weekly open plenary of the Conference on Disarmament, to which the annual NGO statement is read. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the First Special Session on Disarmament of the UN General Assembly and the 40th anniversary of the negotiation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the WILLPF seminar aimed to stimulate discussion on the rights and responsibilities of women under Security Council resolution 1325 to engage with disarmament and security debates.

The seminar was held in two parts. On 5 March, an NGO Conference, cosponsored by WILPF, the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, and the NGO Committee on Disarmament, provided an opportunity for activists and advocates to share information in a series of briefings, discussion and strategising on gender, security and preventing conflict. Participants heard from experts on gender and military budgets, landmines, small arms, nuclear weapons and security policy. On 6 March a dialogue among NGOs, governments and UN officials, cosponsored by WILPF and the Geneva Forum, was held bringing together eminent panellists to discuss the theme “Women, Wars, Weapons and Conflict Prevention.”

See also: the website of the Geneva Forum, a joint initiative of the Quaker United Nations Office, Geneva (QUNO), the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), and the Programme for Strategic and International Security Studies (PSIS) of the Graduate Institute of International Studies.

Security Sector Reform:
The joint Gender and Security Sector Reform Toolkit was jointly prepared by UN-INSTRAW, the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). It is designed to provide policymakers and practitioners with a practical introduction to why gender issues are important in SSR and what can be done to integrate them.

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