New York, Mar 5 (IANS): UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for empowerment of women as "agents of change" in a message to mark the upcoming International Women's Day on March 8, the media reported on Saturday.
In poor parts of the world, women still face the risk of dying in the process of giving birth and girls are attacked even today, Xinhua news agency reported citing Ban's statement.
"We can only address these problems by empowering women as agents of change," he said.
"When I arrived at the UN, there were no women leading our peace missions in the field. Now, nearly a quarter of all UN missions are headed by women, far from enough but still a vast improvement," he added.
Ban also said that he has signed nearly 150 letters of appointment to women in positions of assistant secretary-general or under-secretary-general.
While he remained outraged by the denial of rights to women, Ban said he takes heart from the people who act on the knowledge that "women's empowerment leads to society's advancement".
UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuk, also called on the international community to "Step it up for gender equality" in her message to mark the day.
This year's celebration of International Women's Day is the first in the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development said Mlambo Ngcuk.
The new agenda's Sustainable Development Goals include a specific goal to achieve gender equality, she added.
"To arrive at the future we want, we cannot leave anyone behind. We have to start with those who are the least regarded. These are largely women and girls, although in poor and troubled areas, they can also include boys and men," she said.
Moreover, women and girls are at the frontline of the outbreaks of new epidemics, such as Zika virus disease or the impact of climate change, and at the same time are the bulwark to protect their families, work for peace, and ensure sustainable economic growth and social change, she said.
The 2016 theme for International Women's Day is "Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality".