International Women’s Day (March 8, 2011)

This year’s International Women’s Day is marked by the democratic transitions taking place in Tunisia and Egypt in particular. France pays tribute to the role that women have played in the events which have enabled these transitions to take place and calls for the full participation of women in the political processes that are under way.

The UN Security Council recognized the importance of the full participation of women, on an equal footing, in the stabilization processes in the countries in crisis. For its part, France adopted at the end of 2010 a National Action Plan which will make it possible to accelerate the implementation of the resolutions on “women, peace and security,” as much at the national level as within the framework of our external action.

The claiming of women’s rights - civilian, political, economic, social and cultural - is a phenomenon that truly took off a hundred years ago in Europe and the United States. Certain people therefore use this as a pretext to reduce this aspiration to a purely western phenomenon, while the claiming of human dignity and equality is universal.

This is also the message that we are conveying to Tunisian and Egyptian women. Beyond the uniqueness of each society, of each culture, inequality and oppression are only based on force of habit or just plain force. Human rights are a collective achievement in which France continues to play a vital role. Let’s not forget that today - and not just today - we can’t have human rights without women’s rights.

In order to respond to these challenges, France supports numerous initiatives aimed at promoting women’s rights and the fight against violence. In May, we will also sign a convention within the framework of the Council of Europe giving us new ways to fight against violence, including ways to combat forced marriages.

The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs supports numerous initiatives aimed at promoting the economic empowerment, education and school enrolment of girls, and access to health care by women and girls; at the most recent G8 meeting in Muskoka it pledged to contribute €500 million over 5 years in support of the fight against maternal and infant mortality.

The creation of UN Women and the appointment of former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet as its head represent a genuine opportunity to strengthen our collective efforts in support of improving women’s rights throughout the world and the fight against all forms of discrimination and violence against women which are also key development challenges.

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