Women hold the key to eradicating poverty worldwide, but must be supported in their efforts to lead families, societies and nations towards prosperity, senior United Nations officials told an intergovernmental meeting in New York today.
Addressing the Commission on the Status of Women, José Antonio Ocampo, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, stressed the need to ensure gender equality in order to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by a UN summit in 2000 to tackle global ills.
“In order to reduce extreme poverty, enhance social integration and achieve gender equality, we must be able to reconcile economic growth, employment generation and social and gender equality policies,” he said.
He noted that men must play an active role in this endeavour. “It is important to identify the positive efforts already made by men and boys in many contexts and to find ways to encourage and support other men to understand the value of gender equality and to become active in its promotion,” he said.
Assistant Secretary General Angela E.V. King, the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, cautioned that despite growing awareness of the need for gender equality, in many countries women’s rights are still under threat. She cited a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicating that “depending on the country and the environment, between 10 and 69 per cent women around the world reported being subjected to some form of violence in their lives.”
WHO research has also demonstrated that every day, 1,600 women die due to complications related to pregnancy or childbirth, she said. Ninety-nine per cent of these deaths, most of them preventable, occur in developing countries.
“If we are to meet the related MDGs of reversing HIV/AIDS and reducing the rate of maternal mortality by three-quarters by 2015, concerted action is needed to fully finance women’s health programmes, incorporate a gender perspective into health care and ensure quality of care in childbirth,” she declared.
She called on the Commission to tackle these and other pressing issues. “Our vision is a world where girls and boys have equal opportunities for education, where mothers and children have equal access to better health care and medicines, where women and men share decision-making and household chores equally, equally enjoy fundamental human rights and strive equally to achieve peace, democracy, good governance, and sustainable development for their families and nations.”