Queen: Women are agents of change
The importance of women as "agents of change" is celebrated in the Queen's Commonwealth Day message.
In the monarch's annual address to the 'family of nations', she highlights how women play vital roles under many guises - from doctors and artists to entrepreneurs and teachers.
Gender inequalities are still found across the globe and the sovereign called on individuals and groups to think of practical ways to provide support to girls and women so they could lead fuller lives.
International Women's Day, held last Tuesday, celebrated its 100th anniversary this year.
The monarch highlighted the milestone and said the event had grown from humble beginnings to become a global way of publicly recognising mothers and daughters.
The Queen, whose address mirrored the theme of Commonwealth Day, said: "This year, the Commonwealth celebrates the important role that women already play in every walk of life and in every Commonwealth country - from the richest to the poorest areas, across continents and oceans, from villages to places of international debate, in every culture and faith - recognising that women are 'agents of change' in so many ways: as mothers and sisters, teachers and doctors, artists and craftspeople, smallholders and entrepreneurs, and as leaders of our societies, unleashing the potential of those around them."
The monarch, who is head of the Commonwealth, added: "And also this year, the Commonwealth reflects on what more could be achieved if women were able to play an even larger role. For example, I am encouraged that last year the Commonwealth launched a global effort to train and support half a million more midwives worldwide."
The monarch's pre-recorded words will form part of the annual Observance of Commonwealth Day service, to be held at Westminster Abbey and attended by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and a host of dignitaries.
Amongst the speakers will be singer and campaigner Annie Lennox and Zambian-born economist Dr Dambisa Moyo, who will draw attention to the achievements of women across the Commonwealth and highlight how much remains to be done to achieve true equality.
Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy will read a poem commissioned for the service called A Commonwealth Blessing for Girls.