LAHORE, March 8, 2014 (Xinhua) -- A Pakistani woman labourer works at a brick factory in eastern Pakistan's Lahore, March 8, 2014, the International Women's Day. (Xinhua/Sajjad)
LAHORE, March 8, 2014 (Xinhua) -- A Pakistani woman labourer works at a brick factory in eastern Pakistan's Lahore, March 8, 2014, the International Women's Day. (Xinhua/Sajjad)

UNITED NATIONS, March 10 (Xinhua/Sun) -- Opening the 2014 session of the United Nations' commission on women, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday called for an end to gender inequality, which he said is central to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the success of the post-2015 development agenda.

"We cannot achieve a world of dignity for all until we end gender inequality in all its forms," Ban told the 58th Session of Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), underway at UN Headquarters in New York and scheduled to wrap up on March 21.

"More girls are in school, but we are far from ending gender disparity at all levels of education," he said, highlighting that gender gaps are particularly stark among rural populations and for persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, and other marginalized groups.

Ban said that the UN is committed to helping governments provide the education and quality sexual and reproductive health services that too many women and adolescent girls lack.

"Child deaths are dropping significantly, but too many children still die needlessly before the age of five," he said. "The number of women who die each year from pregnancy and childbirth has dropped by almost half, but too many women still die every day due to pregnancy-related causes."

The UN chief also noted the need to provide adequate sanitation and end open defecation, a practice that is linked to one of the greatest current challenges of the MDGs.

More than 2.5 billion people lack the benefits of adequate sanitation, and nearly half of those people practice open defecation, according to UN figures.

Proper sanitary facilities would significantly reduce ill- health and environmental pollution and also enhance the personal safety of women and girls who are often risk sexual abuse for lack of a safe, clean toilet, Ban said.

In his speech, the secretary-general further reiterated his calls on men and boys to support the rights of their mothers, sisters and daughters. On the eve of International Women's Day marked on March 8, the UN launched the "He for She" campaign urging men and boys to take a stand.

"Men and boys have a vital role," Ban said, noting that he has established a network of men leaders to speak out against violence.

This year's meeting of CSW comes ahead of the 20th anniversary of the landmark World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995. The Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, adopted unanimously by 189 countries at the conference, is considered the key global policy document on gender equality, addressing critical areas such as women and poverty, violence against women and the human rights of women.

In her remarks at the opening session, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said that the MDGs and the Beijing Platform for Action are both about making the lives of women and girls better. "We have to align our post-2015 efforts with this purpose. For more positive outcomes in the future, let us plan the future with greater impact and sustainability in mind."

She went on to say that the struggle for woman's empowerment is more than 100 years old and there is a determined intergenerational force that wants to see a sense of urgency and determination on behalf of the world about avoiding the possibility of wasting another generation.

"We can and must do better because equality for women is progress for all. We must make today better than yesterday and tomorrow better than today," she said.