This year’s theme for International Women’s Day highlights women in the changing world of work, and sets our collective sights on the objective of making gender equality a reality by 2030.

Gender equality is an important priority for UNESCO’s work on heritage, creativity and cultural diversity. The equal participation, access and contribution to cultural life of women and men are human rights as well as cultural rights, and an important dimension for guaranteeing freedom of expression for all.

A growing body of evidence from UNESCO programmes points to how gender relations come into play in the transmission of knowledge on heritage and the fostering of creativity. Indeed, ensuring that the spiritual, intellectual and creative expressions and interests of all members of the community are reflected has proven to be an important enabler of inclusive development and socio-economic empowerment.

In many respects, UNESCO World Heritage sites are prime examples of setting standards and sharing practices around the world. Issue No. 78 (February 2016) of the quarterly World Heritage dedicated to Gender Equality illustrates the role of gender in many aspects of heritage, from the gender bias in the early days of the World Heritage convention, to sites where women are caretakers and contribute to conservation acitivites. From Female rangers to the female workforce rebuilding eastern Congo’s infrastructure, Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) is placing women at the core of almost every part of its organization.

UNESCO’s report "Gender Equality: Heritage and Creativity", first published in English and French in autumn 2014, also vividly demonstrates the need for deeper debate, research and awareness-raising on the need for equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities for women and men, boys and girls in the fields of heritage and creativity. “The realization of equal cultural rights demands that women and girls are able to access, participate in, and contribute to all aspects of cultural life on a basis of equality with men and boys. “

On the occasion of 2017 International Women’s Day, we call on the international community to embrace the differences between men’s and women’s attributed roles in societies throughout history and how these are made manifest in the sphere of World Heritage. Through understanding of expressions of cultural diversity, lasting peace can be built.