Executive Director’s Opening Remarks at the 2016 International Women's Day “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it Up for Gender Equality and Zero Hunger"

Delivered on: 08 March 2016

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Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Please once-again raise your hands
thanking the St. Stephens Choir
for offering us the beautiful and stirring Adiemus
a song without lyrics, transcending culture
reminding us all “to draw near.”

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.

On behalf of the Food and Agricultural Organization
the International Fund for Agriculture
the International Development Law Organization,
and, of course,
the World Food Programme,
please allow me to both welcome and thank you
for joining this International Women’s Day celebration.

International Women’s Day is an important day on all our calendars.

It is the day we pause to recognize women and girls’ achievements,
and the day we take stock of the progress made
achieving Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.

This year’s theme Planet Fifty Fifty by 2030 Step It Up for Gender Equality and Zero Hunger
calls on each and everyone us to not only raise consciousness and awareness but to also commit
ourselves to take concrete actions for a more fair, just and equitable world.

Truth... 70 years after the Commission on the Status of Women first met
and more than 20 years after the Beijing Declaration
billions of women and girls in every country endure intolerable inequity.

We know when we provide women
with equitable access to opportunity
women succeed and their families thrive.

From 1805 when Sophie Blanchard piloted a hot air balloon;

To 2014, when Nicola Scaife from Australia won the first ever women’s hot air balloon world championship which was held in Poland.

Women will fly high and when provided with equal education and access to opportunity women succeed and their families thrives.

From 1914 when Eugenie Mikhailovna Shakhovskay served as the first woman-Commissioned military pilot; she flew reconnaissance missions for the Czar in 1914;

To 2015, when Ouma Laouali became Niger’s first female pilot.

Women will soar when given equal access to education and opportunities they will soar and their families will thrive.

From 1911 when Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize in physics.

To 2004 when Maryam Mirzakahai became the first woman and the first Iranian to win a Fields medal in mathematics

Women will solve the problems changing our world for the better when given equal access to education and opportunities
women will exceed and their families and communities and our world will thrive.

Ensuring effective participation and equal opportunities for all women and girls will enable women and girls to realize their inalienable and indivisible rights,
will enable families, communities, nations and the entire global community to achieve Zero Hunger.

When women and men have equal status, children’s nutritional status improves, reducing the prevalence of underweight by up to 28 percent.

Of course, there are many more positive stories of progress and stories of changes, which we will listen to today.

Ladies and gentlemen, we must listen and take action give voice to what is possible because we are all responsible.

As we begin this event, my challenge to us all here in the room and watching across the world is to ask ourselves:

“What step must I take, today
What must I do throughout the year
to ensure that I will make a difference for girls
or just a girl for a women or just a woman…
how can I remove a barrier or open a door?”

I for One, will sign the World Leaders Open Letter and Call to Action.

And I will also ask each and every staff member
of the World Food Programme
to ask themselves:
what affirmative steps,
what barriers did I remove
what difference did I make to advance gender equality?”
whether writing a Global Strategic Plan or 
implementing a Monthly Distribution Plan.

I call on you all to make your pledge today.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai once said:

"I raise up my voice
not so I can shout,
but so that those without a voice can be heard..
we cannot succeed when half of us are held back."

Ladies and gentlemen, we must accept our responsibility to raise our voices, casting aside the binary divisions that exclude
by taking individual steps to collectively and sustainably change our word for the better.

Thank You