In his message for the International Women's Day to be observed on March 8, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Wednesday that "inequality and discrimination against women harm everyone."
Emphasizing that women's empowerment was at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he viewed gender equality as a human rights issue.
The UN chief noted that achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls was "the unfinished task" and "the greatest human rights challenge in our world" which required addressing the historic power imbalances that underpin discrimination and exploitation.
More than a billion women around the world lack legal protection against domestic sexual violence. The global gender pay gap is 23 percent, rising to 40 percent in rural areas, and the unpaid work done by many women goes unrecognized, said the Secretary-General.
"We now know that sexual harassment and abuse have been thriving in workplaces, public spaces and private homes, in countries that pride themselves on their record of gender equality," said the UN chief.
"Women's representation in national parliaments stands, on average, at less than one quarter, and in boardrooms it is even lower. Without concerted action, millions more girls will be subjected to genital mutilation over the next decade," he added.
"We at the United Nations stand with women around the world as they fight to overcome the injustices they face," he said, adding that the United Nations should set an example for the world.
"We have now reached gender parity for the first time in my senior management team, and I am determined to achieve this throughout the organization. I am totally committed to zero tolerance of sexual harassment and have set out plans to improve reporting and accountability," he said.