United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
International women's day- march 8

Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso)– “To change the attitudes, values and types of behaviour which perpetuate inequality, affecting both men and women – this is the long-term challenge facing the twenty-first century,” says UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura in his message for International Women’s Day on March 8, which he will deliver tomorrow in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

The Director-General welcomes the opportunity to deliver his message this year in Africa, a continent that faces difficulties in terms of development, and one for which the Millennium Development Goals, set by the United Nations, are particularly important, especially education for all, literacy for adults and gender equality. The UNESCO Seminar on the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD): from Vision to Action, which Mr Matsuura is attending in Ouagadougou, should help give an African interpretation to these aims.

In his message, the Director-General stresses that gender equality is “indispensable” for the achievement of these goals. He particularly emphasized the importance of primary education for all: “The eradication of illiteracy among women is one of the decisive factors in reducing child mortality rates and improving conditions of health and hygiene . Similarly, the fight against HIV/AIDS is being fought primarily on the preventive education front.”

Mr Matsuura also raises the issue of protecting the environment: “Ensure environmental sustainability? Is it not often true that the solution to many environmental problems, such as deforestation and desertification, sustainable agriculture and water resources management, lies in the hands of women, who, in so many parts of the world, are the main providers of food resources?”

The Director-General adds: “Women, all women, must be able to exercise their fundamental rights to the full, one of the most basic of those rights being access to education, and to participate equitably in political, economic, social and cultural life.”

The message will be delivered tomorrow in Ouagadougou, at the International Centre for the Education of Girls and Women in Africa (CIEFFA), a training and information centre acclaimed for its dynamism. On this occasion, Mr Matsuura will present a UNESCO bronze medal to Mrs Pauline Kaboré, who was one of the first women to benefit from a UNESCO literacy programme undertaken in Burkina Faso. She subsequently became an trainer herself, and has devoted her life to the struggle for the emancipation of African women.

The full text of the Director-General's message can be accessed in five languages at http://portal.unesco.org/8march2003

Source Press Release N°2003-20
Generic Field
Spanish | Arabic | Russian
Publication Date 07 Mar 2003
© UNESCO 1995-2007 - ID: 10197