UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will join First Lady Laura Bush on 8 March to open a commemorative meeting aimed at “celebrating the indomitable spirit, heroism and endurance of Afghan women” while showing global solidarity with their cause, according to organizers. The event will also focus on the needs of Afghan women and girls and suggest ways in which they can contribute to consolidating peace and rebuilding Afghan society. The opening ceremony will also be addressed by the President of the UN Security Council, Ambassador Ole Peter Kolby of Norway, and the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, Angela King. A panel discussion slated to follow will include the participation of Sima Wali, the President of Refugee Women in Development, who was a delegate to the UN Peace Talks on Afghanistan. Other participants will include the Chief Organizer of the Afghan Women’s Summit for Democracy, Ambassador Othman Jerandi of Tunisia, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund, and Julia Taft, Director of the UN Development Programme’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery. The planned events build on growing international momentum to secure rights for women and girls, which had been severely curtailed during the Taliban rule in Afghanistan. For years, UN bodies – including the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Commission on Human Rights and the Commission on the Status of Women – have scrutinized the situation of Afghan women and girls. Most recently, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women issued a statement on 30 January voicing support for Afghan women. International Women’s Day, marked each year on 8 March, serves as an occasion for women on all continents, often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, to come together in celebration of their rights.