African women are the "driving force to overcome poverty, reduce hunger, fight illiteracy, heal the sick, prevent the spread of disease and promote stability," Ban said in a release from U.N. headquarters in New York.
Too many women, however, are "subjected to horrific abuse and violence," Ban said.
Ban urged African leaders to support a U.N. campaign honoring the "unsung heroines" of the continent. The campaign, begun in 2008, calls for all countries to enact strong laws and put in place programs to address sexual violence by 2015.
The inclusion of Africa in the campaign was begun Saturday with a reading of Ban's message in Addis Abba, Ethiopia.
"They are now looking for answers from us, from you, to uphold their right to live lives free of this threat," Ban's message said of abused women.
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