It is true that with the resources we now have, we could feed, clothe and educate every one of the nearly seven billion people living on this planet. And it is patently obvious that we are not doing so, argues Winthrop Professor Carmen Lawrence in her International Women's Day 2010 address at The University of Western Australia.
As I was checking the UN site for the precise wording of this year's theme for International Women's Day (which it turns out is "Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all"), I was confronted by my own - much younger - face. It was a video clip which included an image me speaking, 15 years ago, at the UN Conference on the Status of Women in Beijing.
After the initial shock, I recalled the gathering with some pleasure; it seemed like a watershed and the good will was palpable, as was the determination to succeed in developing a practical plan which committed governments to specific actions rather than collating lofty aspirations which would never be realised in practice. The result of months - even years - of preparation and a week-long meeting, was a statement of agreed underlying principles and a public register of government commitments which became the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action to reduce inequality.
The declaration seems now, perhaps, unremarkable, but was, at the time, very hard fought. The forces of resistance (mainly conservative, clerical and male) were evident in every meeting where women's reproductive rights were discussed and some of the alliances on display were truly mind-blowing. In the end, there were unhappy compromises, as there always will be in large international gatherings, but we judged we could live with and build on the results.
Amongst other things the meeting reaffirmed the UN commitment to the "full implementation of the human rights" of women and girls "as an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of all human rights and fundamental freedoms"; and explicitly recognised "the right of all women to control all aspects of their health, in particular their own fertility" as basic to their empowerment. We also asserted optimistically that "peace is attainable and is inextricably linked with the advancement of women, who are a fundamental force for leadership, conflict resolution and the promotion of lasting peace at all levels".
While progress has been made on many of these fronts, it has to be acknowledged, that even with the more recent commitment to the Millennium Development Goals we are, as a planet, still a long way from realising these ambitions.
One of the key objectives we set in Beijing in 1995 was the eradication of poverty according to the principles of "sustained economic growth, social development, environmental protection and social justice" and the full and equal participation of women and men as agents and beneficiaries of "people-centred sustainable development".
Although we thought we understood the import of those words on "environmental protection" and "sustainable development", I don't think that many at that meeting truly understood just what challenges we would come to face in ensuing decades in reconciling the contradiction between "hanging on to a habitable planet and the expansionary demands of the global market.". I'll return to that problem later.
The planet remains divided into two distinct worlds - the so-called "first" world, characterised by wealth and even material excess for most of its citizens; and the majority "third" world, where people struggle in varying degrees of poverty, deprivation and violence.
Throughout the world, some women have fared well over the last few decades, following sustained campaigns to improve the status of women and with the expanded opportunities provided by growing economic prosperity. Others have fared less well.
There are significant numbers of women in Australia, too, whose circumstances have improved little and who, relatively speaking, have lost ground. Globally, a vast number of the world's women still live in poverty and are still treated as second class citizens. They lack resources and power. While we struggle with the diseases and discontents of affluence, many women around the world are still mired in severe poverty.
Recently revised calculations from the World Bank, using a new poverty line of $1.25 per day, indicate that 1.4 billion people live at or below this level, a number that is greater than previous estimates because their previous approach had "implicitlyunderestimated the cost of living in most developing countries." It is worth noting that these data do not take account of the recent global food crisis and the rising cost of energy.
While the proportion of people living at this poverty level has declined in developing countries over the past 20 years, progress has been very uneven. And, in case we become complacent, almost half the world - over three billion people - lives on less than $2.50 per day and at least 80 per cent lives on less than $10 a day. What is more, the proportion of people in sub-Saharan Africa living below the poverty lines appears to have increased in recent years.
Women account for a growing proportion of those people who are income poor, comprising the majority of the world's estimated 1.4 billion poor  and two-thirds of those who cannot read or write.