It is an honor and a pleasure to participate in this very, very distinguished and large gathering celebrating in Kabul International Women’s Day. I would like to convey to you’ll and also to all the men and women of Afghanistan, the greetings, congratulations and best wishes from Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
The8th of March is a day when I think we stop and try to reflect on the past and also look ahead to the future. We look at the past and pay tribute to the women who fought with heroism to defend the freedom and independence of their country. We also remember the suffering of these women throughout 23 years of conflict and we look also at what has happened in Afghanistan over the last year and we say ‘Alhamdulillah’ this has been a year without war. It has been a year without war but it hasn’t been a year without fear and without suffering. Far too often there are still injustices, there is still violence against women and men of this country and we also look back on what has been done this year.
Minister [of Women’s Affairs] Habib Sarai has spoken at length about the achievements of her ministry and of the country in general. Thetis thanks to the work of the Afghan Government, thanks to the work of the NGOs, thanks to the support from the international community to promote the rights of women and a better life for women in Afghanistan. But what has been achieved is not enough. It is just a beginning to build on and I hope that in the next year the government, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the NGOs, the United Nations, the international community as a whole will continue to work even harder to achieve better conditions for the women of Afghanistan. I hope that next year on the8th of March the situation will have improved enough to celebrate this day not only in Kabul but also in other cities up and down the country in Afghanistan.
Thesis a day of solidarity, of solidarity between the women of Afghanistan but also between all the people of Afghanistan to realize that progressing Afghanistan requires progress for all Afghan men and women.
Wearer very, very grateful to the men and women of the world who have provided support to the women of Afghanistan throughout last year. We are very grateful to the governments and the organizations from the world over who have provided support to the schools of the country, to its hospitals, to its education for adults and that have allowed a lot of women to start working, going to school, getting medical treatment. We call on these governments, these organizations, these people from the world over to continue and increase their support for Afghanistan in the coming year so that Afghanistan can build on what has been achieved and continue to promote the empowerment and progress of women in this country.
On this day I think we also remember the help that has been given to Afghanistan by its neighbors. We remember the hospitality of Pakistan, of Iran who have received all those millions of refugees. Still today there are millions of refugees in these two countries and we are very grateful to them and other countries for their hospitality and generosity tithe refugees from Afghanistan. Pakistan, Iran, China, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, these are the neighbors of Afghanistan and we are looking to their work with Afghanistan to protect the peace which has come back to Afghanistan and to prevent the return of conflict and war and tensions to this part of the world.
Awe ask for solidarity from all the world with the women and the people of Afghanistan, I think that the women and the people of Afghanistan also think of other countries, of other people, of women in other countries who are suffering from war or conflict, disease and poverty and express their solidarity with the women and the people of these countries in other parts of the world. I think of the women of Africa who are suffering from civil wars, from disease and from hunger. I think of the women and people of Palestine who are suffering from extremely harsh conditions imposed by a very cruel occupation and I think of the women of Iraq who go to bed every night with the fear of the war that is threatening their country. I pray that the efforts which are being deployed now will spare them the horrors of another war.
Innis message to all the women of the world the Secretary-General has reminded all the members of the United Nations of the commitment they made at the Millennium Summit held in September 2000 in New York. Amongst these commitments there are eight goals that were set during this summit to be achieved by the year 2015. Amongst these eight goals there is one that concerns women and that is the empowerment of women and the promotion of equality between men and women. The other seven goals are also very important for all the women in the world. The first goal is to try and reduce by half extreme poverty and hunger in all countries of the world. The second one is to achieve primary education to all the children, boys and girls, of the world. The third one is to reduce the mortality of children who are under five by two thirds. Equally important is the fourth objective and that is by 2015 to reduce by three quarters the mortality of mothers. Fifth is to reverse the spread of diseases especially HIV/AIDS and malaria. Sixth is to ensure the protection of the environment. And finally the creation of a global partnership between all the countries of the world to support the poor, for better trade conditions and the reduction of the debt that is such a heavy burden on the shoulders of so many countries.
In the new year that is going to start in two weeks in Afghanistan there is a lot to be done by the men and women of Afghanistan: there is constitution to be drafted, there are elections to be prepared, there is an army to be formed, there is a national police to be formed, there is development to be made, there is education to be continued and in all these we would like to see women taking a very active and creative part. So congratulations on this day and work hard, work well, work together to reinforce peace and reconstruct Afghanistan.
Thank you very much indeed.