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Equal rights and opportunities for women and girls essential for better health

Mon, 03/08/2010 - 5:20am
World Health Organization
Today, on International Women's Day, the world reflects on how to ensure equal rights and opportunities for women and girls. Everyone must fight against discrimination and inequalities that compromise the health of women and girls around the world.

Thirty years after the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), many girls and women still do not have equal opportunities to realize rights recognized by law. In many countries, women are not entitled to own property or inherit land. Social exclusion, "honour" killings, female genital mutilation, trafficking, restricted mobility and early marriage among others, deny the right to health to women and girls and increase illness and death throughout the life-course.

We will not see sustainable progress unless we fix failures in health systems and society so that girls and women enjoy equal access to health information and services, education, employment and political positions.

International Women's Day is also a day to celebrate the achievements over the years to eliminate discrimination against women and girls. For instance, a few days ago, WHO and five UN partners pledged to jointly build a future of gender equality and social justice for adolescent girls. We are convinced that educated, healthy and skilled adolescent girls will help build a better future. They will stay in school, marry later, delay childbearing, have healthier children and earn better incomes that will benefit themselves, their families, communities and nations.

Today we must all join forces to make sure that the health of women and girls is not jeopardized simply because they were born female.

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