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March 8: International Women’s Day – Statement by Minister Di Maio

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, I strongly reaffirm Italy’s commitment to the protection and promotion of women’s rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, and to the fight against all forms of discrimination and gender-based violence.

The 8th of March is the annual occasion to take stock of the progress made in these areas, but above all to recognize the challenges we still face and revive our commitment to address them. The theme chosen this year by the United Nations to celebrate March 8, “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow,” underscores the inescapable link between gender equality and sustainable development. These issues are also at the heart of this year’s work of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, which will open next week in New York, and to which Italy will not fail to make its own proactive contribution.

In the last twelve months we have been working to promote a sustainable and inclusive recovery and to overcome the negative consequences that the Covid-19 pandemic has had also on women’s economic empowerment and women’s access to education and training.

In these months, as Chairperson-in-Office of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, we have decided to include the promotion of women’s empowerment and the fight against gender-based violence and discrimination among our priorities and we are working with determination first of all to promote the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the so-called Istanbul Convention), the most advanced international instrument aimed at preventing, combating and punishing gender-based violence.

At the same time, we cannot forget that in the last 12 months we have continued to witness crisis situations and conflicts in the world that have had inevitable repercussions not only on people’s security, but also on the protection of their rights, with particularly serious effects on the most vulnerable groups, including women and children.

Last summer, the sudden crisis that unfolded in Afghanistan in the space of a few weeks caused a dangerous setback in the progress made in the previous twenty years in terms of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and in particular the rights of women and girls, in terms of access to political and economic life, health and education. From the beginning Italy has promoted with determination a coordinated international action, first of all within the United Nations and our G20 Presidency, in order not to nullify the results achieved in two decades of international commitment in favor of Afghan women and girls. Even at the national level, the protection of the rights and empowerment of women and girls is a commitment that we have translated across the board in the initiatives planned under the National Plan for the Afghan people.

In recent weeks, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has shown us that we cannot lower our guard even in the heart of our Europe. The crisis has already caused devastating effects on respect for human rights, and women in particular are at enormous risk of violence, abuse and discrimination, including the risk of losing access to education and basic health services. In just a few days, more than 1.7 million people have left Ukraine, overwhelmingly women and children, who are now in a very vulnerable situation.

At this extremely difficult and distressing time, I express my closeness and solidarity to all Ukrainian women and girls, and to all women everywhere in the world who have made their voices heard forcefully against the extremely serious and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine. I look with sincere admiration at your courage and strength in these dramatic moments. Italy will not fail to give you its support and its utmost commitment. Translated with (free version)