Message from Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

The new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development underlines the power of science as a driver for human rights and dignity, poverty eradication and the protection of the planet.

On this first International Day of Women and Girls in Science, UNESCO’s message is clear – the new Agenda will not meet its promise without investing in women’s and girls’ empowerment through and in science.

More than ever today, the world needs science and science needs women.

Almost 21 years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action from the 4th World Conference on Women, women remain underrepresented in the natural sciences. According to the most recent UNESCO Science Report, women account for only 28 percent of researchers across the world, with the gap deepening at the higher echelons of decision-making. Women have less access to funding, to networks, to senior positions, which puts them at a further disadvantage in high-impact science publishing.

Indian Ocean Sandwatch workshop: participants measure longshore currents in Male beach, Seychelles.

© Paul Diamond. Measuring longshore currents in Male beach, Seychelles.

This calls for deep and sustained change, starting in the earliest years through improved participation of women and girls in science education, training and research activities at all levels. Girls’ and women’s access to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) cannot be envisaged when girls and women remain the majority of out-of-school children, youth and illiterate adults. This gap throws a shadow over entire societies, as no country can move forward with only half its creativity, energy, and dreams.

Gender equality is a global priority at UNESCO, and promoting women and girls in science stands at the heart of this action, through a range of initiatives – starting with the flagship L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science partnership, and including the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World, the Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education, with a focus on STEM education, the SAGA (STEM and Gender Advancement) project, as well as the UNESCO UNITWIN Networks in Gender, Science and Technology, supporting women in science teaching and research.

© UNESCO/ Alice Ochanda
Scientific Camps of Excellence for Mentoring Girls in STEM (Kenya)

On this first International Day of Women and Girls in Science, I invite all our partners and all Governments to redouble efforts to empower girls and women through and in science, as a foundation to take forward the 2030 Agenda.

Irina Bokova
Message on the occasion of the first International Day of Women and Girls in Science, 11 February 2016
Full message: English ǀ Français


Official event

  • High Level Forum organised by the Royal Academy of Science International Trust (RASIT) and UNDESA with UNESCO, UN-Women
    11 February 2016, UN HQ, New York

Prof. Rajaâ El Moursli, 2015 laureate of the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards, and her students at Mohammed V University-Agdal (UM5A), Morocco. © Brigitte Lacombe for the L'Oréal Foundation.