Today we celebrate the International’s Women Day. This important occasion marks the economic, social, political and cultural achievements of women around the world, but also reminds us that from 1.6 billion people live in extreme poverty, majority are women.
Not only poverty has a female face, but the economic crisis hit women the hardest. When poor families lack money they usually decide to pool out girls from schools. We know that when women are getting richer they invest more in food and education for their children and less is spent on alcohol and tobacco.
Therefore in our development programmes we introduced “a female factor” – most of our actions have to specifically enhance women’s engagement and we have already achieved good results. Thanks to our aid 85,000 of new female students in the poor countries have been enrolled in secondary education and more than 4 million births were attended by health personnel.
Although much has been achieved, there is still a lot of work to be done. Every day, thousands of women and girls are victims of violence, including sexual abuse, trafficking and early and forced marriage. Educating and engaging with girls and boys is key as they are important agents of change in bringing about a shift in cultural attitudes in future generations.
I want to reiterate that promoting women’s rights and gender equality is not only an issue for women alone. This is an issue important for the well-being and sustainable development of society.
I am spending this day in Haiti, where many women are still suffering the consequences of the devastating earthquake. The EU provides here help, in particular to pregnant women and new mothers and their children.
Many women fight a heroic, yet unnoticed battle for the benefit of their families. My wishes go today to these women, to mothers and daughters, women activists and scientists, to female leaders all around the world. And I would like to stress, that I will remain committed to pay special attention to women’s rights and issues in our development policies.