|© UNICEF China/2005/ Rycroft|
|UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman and a group of children at a UNICEF supported kindergarten in Yinchuan.|
By Charles Rycroft
BEIJING, 29 August 2005 – Speaking today at the opening of ‘Beijing 2005: The 10th Anniversary Commemoration of the Fourth World Conference on Women’, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman emphasized the importance of programmes and partnerships that promote gender equality and empower women.
Ms. Veneman focused particular attention on girls’ education, “because of its positive effects on the development of the individual and the well-being of societies.” Girls’ education is not only fundamental to the achievement and sustainability of poverty reduction, she said, but it also applies to other development goals.
Ms. Veneman said that educating girls provides both short and long-term benefits, “including reduced child mortality, increased productivity and income, better-educated children and gains for women’s and girls’ social status and empowerment.” She said that 115 million children, the majority of whom are girls, were still out of school, despite progress on this issue.
Providing a better future for women and children requires a renewed commitment to the principles of the Beijing Declaration and to the Millennium Development Goals, Ms. Veneman said, by means of “supportive governments, economic empowerment and a focus on poverty, health, education and partnerships.”
|© UNICEF China /2005/Mingfang|
|UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman meets girls who are students at Minle mosque, Yinchuan, China.|
Earlier during her five-day trip to China, Ms. Veneman visited Ningxia province in the north-west of the country, where she saw firsthand UNICEF’s programme work on HIV/AIDS and education. In Yinchuan she visited a mosque, a kindergarten, and schools where pupils, including girls, are being taught how to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.
More than one million people in China are infected with the virus and that figure could rise to 10 million by 2010 unless effective measures are taken immediately.
Ms. Veneman also visited Yanchi county, one of China’s poorest regions, to look at how UNICEF is helping reduce maternal and child mortality rates in rural areas.
As a result of the UNICEF-supported Safe Motherhood Initiative, the proportion of deliveries in the county that take place in health facilities has increased from 67 per cent in 2001 to nearly 90 per cent in 2004. Both maternal and child mortality rates in the area have steadily declined.
One of the remaining challenges is encouraging poor women from mountainous areas to come to township and village clinics, for pre- and post-natal care and to deliver their babies. Local authorities provide a subsidy to poor families opting for hospital delivery, while UNICEF supports the training of health staff and provides pregnant women with the information they need to make the best decisions for their child.