International Women’s Day; Human Rights Council; WFP-Groupon; Syria

International Women’s Day: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today joined other senior United Nations officials on the eve of International Women’s Day in highlighting the potential of rural women to improve the well-being of entire societies if given equal access to resources and set free from the discrimination and exploitation that hold them back.

He acknowledged that women are increasingly exercising greater influence in business, government, politics, public administration and other professions. Also, more girls are going to school and are growing up healthier and better equipped to realize their potential. “But, despite this momentum, there is a long way to go before women and girls can be said to enjoy the fundamental rights, freedom and dignity that are their birthright and that will guarantee their well-being,” said the Secretary-General.

Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of UN Women, stated that no enduring solution to the major global challenges – from climate change to political and economic instability – can be solved without the full empowerment and participation of women across the world. She highlighted the fact that providing women farmers with equal access to resources would result in 100 to 150 million fewer hungry people, while ensuring that they have income, land rights and credit would mean fewer malnourished children.

In her message to mark the Day, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged governments, community leaders and heads of families to recognize and tap the enormous potential of women to positively impact the world around them. She stressed that participation requires that women are able to access relevant information and are empowered through education and political access. She underlined the need to ensure inclusion of women from minority groups, the poor, the elderly, those with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.

Human Rights Council
: Top United Nations officials today urged Member States to tackle violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation, adding that countries cannot continue to overlook such grave violations of human rights.

“We see a pattern of violence and discrimination directed at people just because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a video message to the first-ever session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) devoted to this subject.

The Secretary-General told the 47-member Human Rights Council that a historic shift is under way as more countries are seeing the gravity of this type of violence and discrimination.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said these laws not only breach international human rights law, but also cause unnecessary suffering, reinforce stigma, fuel violence and undermine efforts to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS. Ms. Pillay also presented the first-ever UN study documenting disturbing abuses against LGBT people worldwide, and provided recommendations for Member States to address the issue.  The report reveals that violence against LGBT people takes place in all regions, many times with consent of governments. Commonly reported incidents include targeted killings, violent assaults and acts of torture and sexual violence.

On the eve of this year’s International Women’s Day, the World Food Programme (WFP) has partnered with Groupon Malaysia to raise awareness and support for nutrition activities that benefit mothers and children in Asia.

The ‘Groupon for Women’ initiative for WFP’s Mothers-to-Mothers campaign will be available for five days beginning on 8 March, which is observed annually as International Women’s Day. Each deal sold helps provide a vital nutritious meal, making a difference for a pregnant or new mother and her child. The full proceeds of each ‘Groupon for Women’ will go to WFP’s nutrition activities in 14 countries in the region.

The five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Morocco met behind closed doors on Tuesday to discuss a U.S.-drafted resolution urging an end to the Syrian government’s crackdown on demonstrators, a text some Western envoys said was too weak. It remains unclear whether the U.S. draft resolution, which follows two earlier proposed condemnations of Damascus that Russia and China vetoed, has any chance of success in the 15-nation council, which has been deadlocked over Syria’s military operations against pro-democracy protesters for almost a year.

Meanwhile, The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos entered the former Syrian rebel stronghold of Baba Amr, a neighborhood in Homs, Wednesday, almost a week after rebels fled the month-long assault by government forces.