AIDS, children, empowering women central themes as UN marks Families Day

14 May 2004

The impact of HIV/AIDS which has already orphaned 14 million children worldwide, the worst forms of child labour that affect 180 million youngsters, and the "critical" need to empower women are central themes of the International Day of Families being celebrated throughout the United Nations system tomorrow.

The impact of HIV/AIDS which has already orphaned 14 million children worldwide, the worst forms of child labour that affect 180 million youngsters, and the "critical" need to empower women are central themes of the International Day of Families being celebrated throughout the United Nations system tomorrow.

This year's celebration carries special significance as 2004 marks the 10th anniversary of the International Year of the Family.

Progress has been made in instituting national programmes of action and integrating family perspectives in national legislation and policy, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a message noting that the well-being of families has become a central focus of all concerned with national development and poverty eradication.

"Yet more needs to be done," he declares. "On this International Day of Families, I urge governments, civil society and individuals to keep working for policies and programmes that recognize and support the contributions each family makes to its members, its community and its society."

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) highlights the particular urgency for families affected by HIV/AIDS, whose toll of orphaned children is expected to exceed 25 million by 2010, and the vital role of women. "Increasingly, adolescent girls and grandmothers are becoming heads of households and they need increased support," UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid says in her message.

"There is a mountain of research to show that empowering women and ensuring women's rights benefits families," she adds. "When women are educated and healthy and can plan their families and earn an income, they put these resources to work for their families. The children are healthier and better educated, and the benefits are passed from one generation to the next. However, when girls are valued less than boys, kept out of school, or married as child brides, the family itself is threatened by the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and poor health that often ensues."

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) warns that children growing up without parental care are at grater risk of violence, exploitation, trafficking and discrimination.

"Family is a child's first line of protection," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy says. "Being deprived of parental support can be devastating. Without this essential buffer, children are immediately more vulnerable to abuse of their most basic rights."

She notes that some 246 million children work, with about 180 million engaged in the worst forms of child labour, and that ensuring that all children, especially girls and children without parental support, can attend school is one of UNICEF's key missions.

 

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