Women continue to bear disproportionate responsibility for often unappreciated care-giving work in households and communities, despite significant progress in gender equality and women empowerment during the past 15 years, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro has said.
“The unequal sharing of responsibilities between men and women reflects stereotypical assumptions about the role of women and men in society – and the stubborn persistence of those assumptions,” Ms. Migiro told the Spain-Africa conference in Valencia on Saturday.
“Inequality, whether in the private or public sphere, has adverse impacts on women, as well as men, their families, the economy and society as a whole. It has implications for equality of opportunity in education, in the labour market and in public life,” Ms. Migiro told the gathering, whose theme was ‘Women for A Better World’.
“The uneven yoke of domestic and care-giving responsibilities is one of the great pieces of unfinished business in our long-term quest for gender equality and women’s empowerment,” she added.
Ms. Migiro also noted that despite the achievements in empowering women and increasing their role in the economy and improving their education and sexual and reproductive health since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action on gender equality 15 years ago, women remained more vulnerable some diseases and gender-based violence.
In sub-Saharan Africa, she said, nearly 60 per cent of those infected with HIV/AIDS are women, and while initiatives in all parts of the world to address violence against women and girls have been on the rise, such efforts are often not comprehensive or sustained. “Rape and sexual violence have tragically become weapons of war,” Ms. Migiro said.
Progress on maternal and child health has also proven very difficult to achieve, the Deputy Secretary-General said, adding that more than half a million women and girls are estimated to die during pregnancy and childbirth every year – 99 per cent of them in developing countries.
Highlighting opportunities that would help redress some of the problems of gender inequality, Ms. Migiro lauded the proposal by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the General Assembly to consolidate the current four gender-specific entities of the UN into one “strong, dynamic and effective” composite entity.
“The entity will provide coherent support to intergovernmental normative and policy-setting work and will have a strengthened and integrated operational capacity to respond to Member States’ needs at the national level,” Ms. Migiro said.
The General Assembly’s high-level plenary meeting on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) would be another opportunity to agree on a concrete, results-oriented plan to accelerate progress in order to achieve the goals by the agreed deadline of 2015, she added.