Top United Nations officials have called for investing in women and girls during the global financial crisis to help promote economic recovery and tackle poverty and inequality.
“There is no smarter investment in troubled times,” said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).
In a statement to mark World Population Day, observed on 11 July, Ms. Obaid noted that women and girls were the majority of the world's poor, even before the current financial crisis hit. “Now, they are falling deeper into poverty and face increased health risks, especially if they are pregnant.”
Complications of pregnancy and childbirth are the leading killers of women in the developing world today, and maternal mortality represents the largest health inequity in the world. “This health gap will only deepen unless we increase social investments, maintain health gains and expand efforts to save more women's lives,” said the Executive Director.
Noting that the global financial and economic crisis threatens to reverse hard-won gains in education and health in developing countries, she called on world leaders to make the health and rights of women a political and development priority.
Investing in reproductive health is especially cost-effective, she said. “An investment in contraceptive services can be recouped four times over – and sometimes dramatically more over the long term – by reducing the need for public spending on health, education and other social services.”
In his message for the Day, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on decision-makers to “protect women's ability to earn income, keep their daughters in school, and obtain reproductive health information and services, including voluntary family planning.
“Together, let us advance the rights of women and girls, and empower them as highly productive members of society capable of contributing to economic recovery and growth. There can be no better investment on this day or any other,” said Mr. Ban.