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    Press Release No: UNIS/GA/1666
    Release Date: 10 July 2000
    Assembly President Calls for End to Violence Against Women, Stresses
    Need to Respect Their Rights and Provide Them Access to Resources

      

    NEW YORK, 7 July (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the message by Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia), President of the General Assembly, on the occasion of World Population Day, which will be observed on 11 July:

     The 188 Member States of the United Nations represent more than 6 billion people as we observe this World Population Day.  The 55 years of the Organization coincide with the biggest and fastest expansion in population the world has ever seen, most of that vast increase occurring in the developing countries.  Back in 1945, world population numbered less than 2.5 billion.

     This year's theme, "Saving Women's Lives", is highly relevant.  In this context, at the General Assembly's just concluded special session, "Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-first Century", governments agreed on concrete actions and initiatives to further the global agenda for the advancement of women in all areas that affect their lives.

     There are noteworthy improvements that we can celebrate on this World Population Day:  Even as the human family has grown, individual families have become smaller and their health has improved; in developing countries, women have half as many children as the 1945 generation; infant mortality has fallen by two-thirds; and life expectancy is over 60 years instead of 40 in 1945. 

     At the same time, however, we must not ignore more sombre facts:  That two-thirds of the world's illiterates are women; that nearly half the world's women still cannot choose the size and spacing of their families; and the fact that every minute a woman dies as a result of complications of her pregnancy or childbirth.  Furthermore, a young woman is five to six times more likely to contract HIV infection than a man of the same age; in Africa, in particular, more women than men have new HIV infections.  Moreover, one woman in three has experienced violence during her lifetime; that is because wherever she is in the world, a woman runs risks just because she is female. 

     These are grim statistics, therefore change must come.  For that to happen, a great part of the responsibility rests with men:  as community and national leaders, they can remove many of the obstacles that stand in women's way; as health workers and educators, they can ensure that women and girls have access to the best services; and as husbands and fathers, they can take personal responsibility for ensuring respect and safety for women, within the family and beyond it.  All this emphatically shows that men must be in the forefront of their own mental change and structural transformation that will anchor gender equality in the society.

     As President of the General Assembly, and as a man, I vow to continue to speak out for the legitimate demands and just rights of women.  Ending violence against women, respecting their rights and providing them access to resources and reproductive health services will firmly set the society on the road towards better opportunities for women and their well-being.  This is the best way to save their lives and humanize social relations between women and men.

     The global community is, indeed, committed to change.  At recent special sessions on population, women and social development, the General Assembly agreed on specific actions and bold initiatives to implement the recommendations adopted at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, and at the Fourth World Conference on Women and the World Summit for Social Development, both held in 1995.

     Universal health care, education, equality before the law and economic rights in daily life have long been part of the international agenda for human security and sustainable development.  By acting together to save women's lives, we are serving the cause of human rights and gender equality.  But we also make possible a better future, not only for the half the world who are women, but for all 6 billion of the human family and all who will come after us.    

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