Excellencies, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen

It is a pleasure for me and my distinct honour to welcome you all to the annual ACP celebration of International Women's Day here at ACP House. It feels wonderful to look out and see such a radiant throng of women here with us today, but also supportive men, who I am sure understand just as I do, that we need both men and women to overcome the development challenges we face in the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On 8 March of every year we join countless others from around the globe not only to celebrate women and their achievements in diverse fields in human endeavour, but also to highlight the essential role of women in our lives and our communities. It is indisputable logic that for a nation to rise to the heights of its economic and social potential, it needs to invest equally and provide opportunities for the entire population – not just the male half.

Women's empowerment is not an act of charity nor is it an expression of humanitarian compassion for women. It is a recognition of a right, as women's rights are human rights. According to a report by the World Economic Forum, countries that have less gender inequities tend also to be those with the highest ratings for “international competitiveness”. Studies also suggest that the economic participation of women drives household income growth. This is what the United Nations High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda refers to as the “transformative power”of women's equal participation.

Demographically, women do not only constitute half the human race, but they also give birth to the other half. They also tend to and nurture, and nourish that other half.

You Excellencies and Friends,

Not too long ago, we at the ACP Secretariat commissioned a report to gather case studies on notable initiatives on women's participation in various economic sectors. The study, which you will hear about as part of this evening's programme, was funded by our EU development partners, who continue to be our staunch allies in vigorously promoting gender equality in our ACP regions.

We will also welcome guest speakers, who have traveled all the way from Cameroon, St Lucia, and Papua New Guinea to share with you their experiences and work towards the empowerment of women in their communities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we approach the 2015 deadline of the Millenium Development Goals, we are pleased that the world has made progress on Millennium Goal 3, to promote gender equality and empower women. Since the year 2000, gender parity has been achieved in a large part in primary education, and we have had significant increases in the employment of women outside of agriculture. Also, more women today are elected to parliaments around the world.

But there is yet a long way to go. Secondary and tertiary education in many of our countries are still very much the preserve of boys and men. Huge disparities still remain in key regions as far as employment. And while there has been a jump in women in parliament, this has been mainly been only in countries with a quota system to ensure their seats.

So the battle is far from over. In fact, it is the poorest and most vulnerable women of the world who are most at risk of ongoing inequality, discrimination and abuse.

Your Excellencies,m Ladies and Gentlemen,

You may have heard the saying that beside every great man, there is a great woman. But today we are also reminded that behind every great nation are women who are safe, healthy, educated and empowered…. Indeed we are always reminded of the prophetic and profound saying by Dr Kwegyir Aggrey of Ghana, that when you educate a man, you educate an individual, but when you educate a women, you educate a whole nation. These are the conditions we must strive for, not only for the 450 million women that live in our ACP regions, but for every member of the fairer gender, if we want to make any sustainable impact in global development.

Finally, we will take advantage of this special day to recognise some outstanding women amongst our staff here at the ACP Secretariat. I would like to mention that the awards that will be given out were sponsored by my colleague, the Assistant Secretary General Madame Michele Dominique Raymond, who in fact has been taking the lead in organising the International Women's Day celebrations since 2011. I wish to thank her for her initiative and resourcefulness.

On this note, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish you all a happy and fruitful International Women's Day celebrations.

I thank you for your kind attention.

H.E Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni
Secretary General