UNESCO is celebrating International Women’s Day (8 March) with a series of events at Headquarters in Paris from 8 to 19 March. The programme includes round tables, exhibitions, a concert and a film, all highlighting issues linked to women’s empowerment and the promotion of gender equality.
“International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate the victories of women the world over,” said the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, in her message for the Day. “As societies grapple with multiple challenges from economic to environmental, I invite all UNESCO’s partners to make equal rights and equal opportunities for girls and women a top priority in all policies. It is the condition of a more secure, just and peaceful world.”
Two round tables will be held on March 8. Ms Bokova will open the first, a Round Table on “Women and Science: Challenges Ahead” (10 am-1 pm, Room XI), which will examine efforts made to promote women in science. Participants will be: Maria Prieto, President of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO); Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, Director General of the National Council of Science and Technology of Mexico (CONACYT); Dominique Leglu, scientist and editor in chief of the French magazine “Sciences et Avenir ”; Gloria Bonder, Chair holder of the UNESCO Chair on “Women, Science and Technology” in Argentina; Catherine Cesarsky, French High Commissioner For Atomic Energy, CEA Saclay; Wendy Watson-Wright, Assistant Director-General for the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, UNESCO; and others.
Next, a High Level Round Table on "Beijing + 15" (3-5 pm, Room II) will focus on the last Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, progress of the agenda set at the conference and future directions. As Ms Bokova noted in her message, the Beijing conference “produced the most progressive and comprehensive policy statement to date on gender equality.” The panelists who will share their assessment and vision include Gertrude Mongella (United Republic of Tanzania), Chairperson of the International Advisory Board of the African Press Organization (APO) and former Secretary-General of the Beijing Conference; and Patricia Licuanan, (Philippines), President of the Miriam College and former Chair of the Fourth World Conference’s preparatory commission. The Chairperson of UNESCO’s Executive Board, Eleonora Mitrofanova, will participate. Valentina Tereshkova ( Russian Federation ), Deputy at the Yaroslavl Duma and the first female cosmonaut, is also expected to contribute to the round tables with a video message.
Art exhibitions celebrating International Women’s Day will open at UNESCO on 8 March and remain on view until 19 March:
* « Art Kassena : femmes artistes de Tiébélé », paintings by women artists presented by Kaïdin-Monique le Houelleur, Burkina Faso (Salle des Pas perdus)
* « Colors and light », paintings by Watana Noonpackdee Butori , Thailand (Miro I and II)
* « Living Ancestors », portraits by Gabrielle Le Roux, Dominica (Hall Segur) (A talk with the artist will take place on 9 March, 11 am–1 pm, Room V. with the participation of Ben Caesar, Hip Hop artist from Dominica.)
* “Real Beauty”, digital images of dolls by Claudia DeMonte, USA (Hall Segur)
* “Womanhood – recto verso”, sculpture and painting by Ingrid Leddet, France, (Hall Segur)
* “Woman: Sustainability and Peace", paintings by Savitri Suwansathit , Thailand (Miro I and II)
Also on 8 March, three singers from different origins and countries - Mélissa Laveaux (Canada, of Haitian descent), Ghalia Benali (Tunisia) and Fatoumata Diawara (Mali) – will give a concert (6:30-9 pm, Room I).
The documentary “The Disaster of Adolescent Mothers” will be screened on 15 March at UNESCO (11 am to 1 pm ., Room XI). Directed by Benedicta Tariere Peretu and Yves Marie Kerlen, the film is set in Niger , where the average age of marriage among women is 15. A debate with the film directors will follow the screening.
A third Round Table, “Freedom of Expression and Women’s Rights in Africa ”, is scheduled at UNESCO on 16 March (10 am-1 pm, Room IV). It will launch the resource book “Freedom of Information (FOI) & Women’s Rights in Africa”, aimed at encouraging African women’s participation in implementing the Freedom of Information frameworks in their countries. The panellists will include Fatma Alloo, founder of the Tanzania Media Women’s Association; Aruna Roy, Indian social and political activist and a founder of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathana Movement (MKSS); Chantal Kisoon, Human Rights Commission, South Africa ; and Carlyn Hambuba, FEMNET, Kenya .
In addition, UNESCO is co-organizing the workshop “Gender Equality and Progress in Societies” on 12 March (9 am-7 pm,) at the OECD Development Centre (2 rue André Pascal , 75016 Paris). Participants are Jeff Edmeades, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW); Suzanne Skevington, World Health Organization Centre for the Study of Quality of Life, University of Bath; Martinus Desmet, Development Assistance Committee-Gendernet; Thelma Awori, Institute for Social Transformation; Pınar İlkkaracan, Women for Women's Human Rights - New Ways; Albert Motivans, Chief of the Education Indicators and Data Analysis Section, UNESCO Institute for Statistics, and others.
Finally, as part of the celebration of the Day around the world, UNESCO is joining media organizations in launching the annual Women Make the News (WMN) initiative. With the theme “Towards Gender Sensitive Indicators for Media: Best Practices for Gender Perspective in Media and in Media Content”, WMN 2010 is promoting global exchange on making the media more responsive to gender issues.