Tackle gender disparities to meet development goals, deputy UN chief says

9 September 2010
Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro

Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro today called on participants at a United Nations forum on gender equality and development goals to act quickly to tackle the inequalities that are at the root of today’s development challenges.

“Far too often, governments fail to take advantage of the multiplier effect of women’s empowerment,” Ms. Migiro told the three-day forum which began today in Athens. “That is why gender gaps in poverty, education, health and human rights are still a reality, and are in some cases growing – even in rich countries.

“The latest economic crises have only magnified this trend,” she said, adding that “policies to deal with this crisis, in both developed and developing countries, must take gender inequality into account.”

The forum, organized jointly by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Hellenic National Commission for UNESCO, is focused on gender equality and its link with international efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. It comes just weeks before the General Assembly’s High-Level MDG summit, which will take place in New York from 20-22 September.

“There is general agreement that both global and national plans to achieve the MDGs by 2015 must integrate policies on gender equality and the empowerment of women,” said Ms. Migiro. “The link is clear.”

Ms. Migiro stressed the need for a fresh approach, with anti-poverty policies starting “from the fact that women make up the majority of those living in poverty. They must target industries which employ mainly women. They should focus on the informal economy, which is predominantly female…

“Health policies must recognize that maternal mortality is still the leading cause of death of women of child-bearing age across the developing world. You are probably aware that this is the MDG that is lagging furthest behind,” she added. “We know how to prevent maternal and child deaths: with prenatal check-ups, qualified birth attendants and emergency care…

“Education policies must address the fact that women make up two thirds of the nearly 800 million illiterate adults in the world. Everywhere, women and girls are more likely to be out of school. In many countries, even when they have the chance to study, girls are denied opportunities to specialize in subjects like medicine or law.

“Policies on sustainable development and climate change will not succeed if they fail to put women’s needs and priorities first. Most farmers in the developing world are women, and women generate the majority of its food.”

This “Future Forum” – one of a series aimed at fostering reflection on key future-oriented issues in UNESCO’s fields of action – is focusing on the strategic role of gender equality for development, gender equality and environmental challenges and the role of UNESCO in promoting change.


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