International Women's Day, 2013

International Women’s Day (IWD) - a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future - is celebrated on 8 March each year. The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) reaffirms its support for its valuable objectives.

The theme of the 2013 International Women’s Day is: ‘The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum’, which aims to highlight the importance of gender equality for women in the world today. Gender equality is a fundamental human right - it helps women to empower themselves, and take control over their lives. Its vital importance in the world today is highlighted by the fact that it is included as one of the world’s eight Millennium Development Goals (Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women).

FIGO President, Professor Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, said:

‘FIGO - the only global organisation bringing together gynecological and obstetrical societies from 125 countries/territories - has as its vision women of the world achieving the highest possible standards of physical, mental, reproductive and sexual health and wellbeing throughout their lives. However, it is difficult for them to do so if they live surrounded by gender inequality.

‘Gender discrimination throughout a woman’s life appears at every age milestone. Childhood can be an especially vulnerable time, with issues such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and differential access to food, medical care and education; during adolescence, women may experience relationship violence, forced prostitution and sexual harassment; and women of reproductive age may endure abuse during pregnancy, partner homicide and sexual abuse in the workplace. Even in the later stages of life, women are not exempt from maltreatment, as they may experience elder abuse within their communities.’ He continued:

‘FIGO encourages all efforts to raise the status of women and for advancing their role in all issues related to women’s health, and is committed to promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights and services through education, research and advocacy, as well as through the provision of accessible, efficient, affordable, sustainable and comprehensive reproductive health services.’

FIGO believes that there are several vital tools that help women to empower themselves.


All women should receive a good standard of education. Approximately two thirds of the world's illiterate adults are female. If a woman has access to education, she is equipped to make positive reproductive choices, and this results in lower infant mortality and lower fertility. Her children, in turn, will also benefit from a higher level of education and economic opportunity.

Employment prospects

Across the world, and in nearly all countries, women work longer hours than men, are usually paid less, and are more likely to experience poverty. Much of their work is unpaid - eg caregiving - and they may have to work in degrading conditions to ensure the upkeep of their homes and families. Education gives women the tools they need to help improve their employment prospects, and hence to help themselves avoid exploitation.

Availability and accessibility of women’s healthcare

A good quality of healthcare should be available to all women, wherever they live, across the whole spectrum of needs - eg maternal, newborn and child health; Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health (ASRH); the prevention of harmful traditional practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM); and family planning.

Involvement in policymaking

Women should be encouraged to be actively involved in issues that directly affect their health and well-being, so that they can better shape their own futures eg getting involved in healthcare policymaking at local, regional and national levels.

Professor Arulkumaran ended:

‘Empowering women is an effective and important way to reduce gender inequality, and FIGO believes that, with effective strategies and interventions, MDG3 will surely be achieved.’