International Women's Day

    This document has been made available in electronic format
         by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA 
                         July, 1996

Source : Review of International Co-operation Vol.89, No
1/1996, 39-40.

                    International Women's Day

     Message from Ms Elizabeth Dowdeswell, United Nations
     Under Secretary-General and Executive Director of United
     Nations Environment Programme on the occasion of the
     International Women's Day, 8 March 1996

NAIROBI, March 1996 - The International Women's Day is a day
consecrated in the history of women's struggle for freedom and
social and economic equality.  It is symbolic of women's
refusal to accept poverty, disease and premature death as
their natural lot.  It is a day dedicated to assessing
progress in their fight for equality, peace and development. 
It is also an opportunity to unite, network and mobilize for
meaningful change.

Even today, though much of the edifice of development  stands
on the backs of women, they comprise the most vulnerable
segment of the human society.  While  performing two thirds of
the world's work, they earn  only ten percent of its income,
own just one percent of its property, constitute the majority
of the world's  poor and, with their dependent children, 80
percent of  the world's refugee population.  Women are
confronted by a legacy of structures of inequality which are
reinforced by misperceptions. A seemingly unending  cycle
retards the pace of their personal development  and affords
them minimal opportunity or fails to  harness their full
potential for national development.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the special 
relationship that women have with their environment.  In most
parts of the world women are the first to  notice
environmental degradation and are the first to suffer from the
effects.  As forests disappear and  wells dry up, they have to
walk further and further to fetch food, energy and water.  As
farmers they suffer the consequences of misuse and overuse of
pesticides.  As household managers, they risk significant
health  hazards from indoor pollution.  Natural resource
degradation can undermine a woman's ability to perform her
traditional roles or mean that she can fulfill them only with
increasing costs in time and energy. 
Seen in this light, the achievement of sustainable development
is inextricably bound up with the establishment of women's
equality.  One cannot be accomplished without the other.
Inequities that are detrimental to the environment and society
at large are particularly detrimental to women.  If
developmental policies fail to take account of women's roles,
they risk both having negative impacts on the natural
resources which women rely on and failing to make use of
women's distinctive skills and knowledge.

Empowerment of women must embrace all aspects of her life if
it is to be meaningful: a new education, a new information
system, a new social orientation, and a revaluation of
cultural attitudes and values relating to her political and
economic marginalization.

All these in the long term will be our best guarantees of a
system that enhances the status of women.

The Platform for Action adopted at Beijing supports this goal
and calls for greater recognition of women as guardians of
environmental resources.  It stresses the need to train women
in environmentally sound technologies, increase their
participation in programmes for natural resource management
and environmental protection and reduce the risks to women
posed by environmental hazards at home and the workplace.

The Platform for Action is first and foremost a document of
hope.  It is a plan to confront and overcome the glaring
disparities in the condition of women.  Its effective
implementation will require a major shift in the priorities of
both governments and individuals and also a significant
re-deployment of human and financial resources.

The time has come for Governments, international and national
NGOs, the private sector and the people to work together as
full and equal partners in improving the quality of life of
women.  We now have in our hands the legitimate basis to
demand change, and it is our responsibility to build on the
momentum energized at Beijing