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Panelists for UN International Women's Day 2014

Panelists at the United Nations International Women’s Day celebration which include from left to right United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and President of the UN General Assembly John Ashe, along with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speak at UN Headquarters in New York on Saturday March 8, 2014. Image: Ryan Brown/UN Women

(WNN) New York, UNITED NATIONS: The gender rights super agency known as UN Women is gearing up with a new campaign that encourages men, as well as boys, to start now to use a gender-lens toward global advocacy. Launched officially on International Women’s Day, Saturday March 8, the ‘He for She‘ campaign has been created to bring males worldwide off the sidelines to commit personally and publicly to stop the denial of rights, marginalization and violence and abuse of women and girls.

“Countries with higher levels of gender equality have higher economic growth. Companies with more women on their Boards have higher returns. Peace agreements that include women are more successful,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during the opening ceremonies at the UN to celebrate International Women’s Day.

“What would I say to a guy who thinks that educating girls is a waste of time?” asks one male advocate for girls education who posted his video on the ‘He for She’ Youtube page. “Ok, I’d say here’s a list of stuff that was invented by girls,” continued the advocate. “Let’s see if it was a waste of time. Kevlar: that’s what they use in bullet proof vests,” he outlines as he lists numerous other inventions and contributions women have made to society.

Yes it’s true. Kevlar was invented by chemist Stephanie L. Kwolek who came across the multi-use polymer in 1964 during work she was doing with Dupont. In 1971 her invention became the main ingredient used in protective vests that is worn today worldwide by both women and men security members who are working to promote peace, including United Nations Protective Services.

Men as advocates for women and girls is not a new idea though. Other agencies including the White Ribbon Campaign, The Good Men Project, NOMAS – National Organization for Men Against Sexism and Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Campaign, among numerous others, are actively working now to better the lives of women and girls worldwide.

“I commend those of you [men and boys] who have spoken out and stand with women and girls, as you know women hold half of the sky,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, during Saturday’s International Women’s Day ceremony at the UN. “We call on all men also, stand up and hold up half of their part of the sky…This is a celebration, so don’t look so serious,” continued a joking Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Prominent women in the political sphere have also been strong advocates for change for women who continue to demand global human rights.

Playing what has been called ‘a pivotal and important role’ with her attendance as the then ‘First Lady’ of the United States in the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, Hillary Clinton refused to censure statements outlining the power of women while in China during the 1995 conference.

“[Women’s equality] remains the great unfinished business of the 21st century…No country in the world, including my own, has achieved full participation,” said Clinton recently during her attendance at the UN commemoration for International Women’s Day. “Just as women’s rights are human rights, women’s progress is human progress,” the former U.S. Secretary of State added.

For the launch of at the United Nations headquarters in New York the ‘He for She’ campaign also has, as part of its outreach, posted a video clip of prominent men urging support for gender equality, including UN Secretary-General Ban, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu and Academy Award winning screenplay writer, actor and producer Matt Damon, among others.

“It’s an objective fact that if you want to solve some of these bigger problems that you have to engage the women. They’re the ones who will get it done,” says Damon.

Women working today in high level positions within the UN matrix include UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillary, along with other outstanding women working for development, peacebuilding efforts and humanitarian aid action like Helen Clark, Angela Kane, Valerie Amos, Ameera Haq, Sigrid Kaag and Susana Malcorra.

It is certain that each one of these women would agree that opportunity and education helped to bring them to the work they are doing today.

“In just two days, the 58th Commission on the Status of Women [UNCSW58] will begin,” outlined Secretary-General Ban on Saturday. “It will focus on the challenges and achievements in meeting the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls. There have been important advances – more girls in schools, more women in parliaments. Yet progress has been far too slow and uneven,” added Secretary Ban.

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https://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1722935254001/?bctid=3309104866001&autoStart=false&secureConnections=true&width=480&height=270

Watch this video to see the full International Women’s Day event at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on Saturday March 8, 2014. This video is a UN Media webcast production.

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