Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the International Women’s Day
8 March 2021
In 2021, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic continues to exacerbate all the divisions in our world, particularly those due to gender inequalities, it is more important than ever before that 8 March be a day of unity and mobilization.
First and foremost, educational inequalities have worsened, as exemplified by the 767 million women and girls who were deprived of their studies at the peak of the pandemic. Today, in addition to the 132 million who were already out of school before the crisis, 11 million of them may never return.
Socioeconomic vulnerabilities are also increasing dramatically. According to a recent study by the International Labour Organization (ILO), job losses worldwide have affected 5% of women, as compared to 3.9% of men.
Losing their financial independence has meant that women have also been more exposed to violence and discrimination. For example, according to United Nations data, each three-month period of lockdown produces an additional 15 million cases of violence against women, and 2 million preventable cases of female genital mutilation will occur in the coming decade.
由于失去了经济独立性，女性也更容易遭受暴力和歧视。例如，根据联合国的数据，每一个季度的禁足隔离措施就会额外造成 1500万起基于性别的暴力事件，而未来十年，可能会有 200万名女孩遭受本可避免的生殖器切割。
In their professional lives, women journalists and artists have not been spared either, as established by a survey conducted by UNESCO, the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and Freemuse: The World Forum on Music and Censorship.
That is why, this 8 March we must all mobilize – women and men alike – to carry the torch of equality.
UNESCO, which has made gender equality a global priority, has been tackling the issue throughout the crisis.
To support girls’ return to school, we have, for example, launched, together with the Global Coalition for Education, the Girls Back to School campaign and published an accompanying guide to good practices, which has been disseminated in more than 50 African Union countries.
We have also given the floor to women artists, scientists, journalists and citizens, for example, in the “A Whole New World, Reimagined by Women” special issue of the UNESCO Courier.
Unquestionably, women need to be agents of change.
Too few are being given the opportunity, however. As the UNESCO Science Report shows, women account for only 33% of researchers worldwide, yet theirs is a key contribution to science: Katalin Karikó’s research, for example, paved the way for the recent breakthrough in mRNA technology.
This underrepresentation is evident both in laboratories and in circles of power: only 20 women in the world are heads of State or heads of government, according to UN Women.
In the face of these ongoing injustices, in the face of this twenty-first-century “shame”, as put by Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres, it is high time for united action.
Working in the areas covered by its mandate, UNESCO devotes great efforts to supporting women’s right to education and promoting women artists, journalists and researchers. It also encourages men’s engagement to the cause.
For it is above all in the minds of people that the defences of equality must be constructed in order to break down prejudices and stereotypes.