Message from the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms. Irina Bokova, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, 8 March 2014.

International Women’s Day has been celebrated by the United Nations on March 8 since 1975. On this day, we evaluate past achievements and challenges for the future, as well as unrealized potential and available opportunities.


This assessment is particularly important today, as we approach the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Conference and the deadline set for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, as we formulate a new global agenda for sustainable development beyond 2015. Moving forward, we must ensure that women’s empowerment and gender equality are at the heart of our efforts to create a better future.


The United Nations has always played a leading role in this area and will continue to do so in the future. The Charter of the United Nations was the first international agreement establishing the principle of equality between men and women. Over the years, the United Nations and its agencies have promoted the equal participation of men and women in efforts to achieve sustainable development and lasting peace based on human rights and fundamental freedoms.


UNESCO is the UN’s specialized agency for the development of education, science, culture, communication and information, and therefore the empowerment of girls and women is at the heart of its activities. Gender equality has been a UNESCO global priority since 2008 and remains so today. As Director-General, I am committed to ensuring that the rights of girls and women are prioritized on the global agenda in all areas of UNESCO’s expertise, as well as in our work on the ground. This work is particularly important in education and culture – two areas that form the center from which to work to create a better world for all women and men.


I am convinced that the empowerment of women is an essential tool for creating a more peaceful and just world. The continuing violence, discrimination and inequality that remain firmly rooted around the world are the main obstacles to change, and today we must work together to overcome them.


On this International Women’s Day, I call on all partners – public authorities at various levels, the private sector, civil society, the entire United Nations system and all women and men-to join forces to accelerate progress, to redouble efforts to achieve gender equality in every region of the world. There is no more powerful force for establishing lasting peace and sustainable development.