5 May 2011
“Towards a Healthier Future! Afghan women and girls move forward”
Opening remarks by Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
“Towards a Healthier Future!
Afghan women and girls move forward”
Palais des Nations, Salle des pas perdus
Thursday, 5 May 2011 at 18:15
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a great pleasure to welcome you all to the Palais des Nations. Tonight is the first time that I have the opportunity to be part of one of our cultural events. I firmly believe that exchange across cultures is the essential foundation of a peaceful and prosperous world.
I therefore look forward to working with all our Member States to strengthen the UNOG Cultural Activities Programme as a platform for this indispensable cross-cultural engagement.
Today’s event is of special significance because it highlights a central issue on the United Nations’ agenda and it relates to Afghanistan, which I had the pleasure to visit and see how the people of this remarkable country fight for a better future. I should like to thank the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan and our colleagues from the World Health Organization and the United Nations Population Fund for bringing us this photographic reminder of the importance of scaling up our collective efforts for women’s health.
The empowerment of women is one of the Secretary-General’s key priorities, and better access to affordable and appropriate health care is critical to achieving this objective. Across the globe, maternal mortality remains unacceptably high. Close to 400,000 women die annually from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. 99% of these are in developing countries, and the maternal mortality rate is declining only slowly. Every year, 1 million children are left motherless.
The participation of women in all aspects of society is of paramount importance to support their access to health. As the Secretary-General highlighted yesterday, “while women’s political participation improves democracy, the reverse is also true”: democracy is an incubator for gender equality”.
In this respect, this event is also a call to work for greater involvement of women in political structures to enable their full empowerment. Currently, fewer than 10 per cent of countries have female Heads of State or government – and fewer than 30 countries have reached the target of 30 per cent in national parliaments”.
We need to address this deficit if we are to make progress on health-related matters. The newly-created “UN Women” will ensure that the United Nations can work more effectively in support of this objective.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
The Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, which was launched last September, is part of the United Nations’ concerted efforts to change the sad and shameful statistics concerning women’s health. It sets out a plan to save the lives of millions of women and children by building on what has been achieved so far – locally, nationally, regionally and globally.
I commend Afghanistan’s commitment to delivering on the promise of the Global Strategy. As we see in these photos, while much still remains to be done, progress has already been made with respect to education, training and access to advice, services and facilities. The United Nations family will continue its work to consolidate these gains, and I know that my colleagues from the World Health Organization and the United Nations Population Fund will speak in greater detail about how we are striving for further advances in collaboration with the Government and people of Afghanistan and other partners.
Improving women’s health and access to health care is not only a goal in its own right. Investment in women’s health also has an important multiplier effect across all of the Millennium Development Goals. The mutually reinforcing relationship between education, health and women’s empowerment, for example, is clearly reflected in many of the photos we see here.
These images are a tribute to the efforts of the Government of Afghanistan to improving the health and lives of women across the country.
I have no doubt that this exhibition will inspire us to reinforce our support so they may move further forward in this endeavour as an integral part of a better future for all people of Afghanistan.
Thank you very much.