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The child in the family

Gender and the family

© UNICEF/2003/Gubb
Sitting in a grove of trees, Sofeleti, 25, holds her two-year-old daughter while being interviewed by Aedess Chikwasa, 14, near Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi.

UNICEF is committed to supporting equal rights for all children as outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. As women and girls are often discounted in the decisions made which directly affect their lives, UNICEF places special emphasis on empowering women as defined by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Women whose rights are recognized and respected, help realize the rights of children and make significant contributions in raising healthy children, families, communities, and nations.

UNICEF recognizes that discrimination of girls is rooted very early in the family and community social structure. Gender equality is achieved by both boys and girls by practicing equal rights and shared responsibility from early ages. However, these practices often conflict with societal values and cultural norms and must be carefully analyzed within the social context of the community.

UNICEF promotes equality within the family structure, which may require the transformation of gender roles. Men and women, as well as boys and girls within a family unit all benefit from identifying roles within the family, and together deciding upon appropriate responsibilities for each family participant. UNICEF recognizes that with the promotion of rights for women and girls, traditional behavior patterns favoring inequality are beginning to break down, and new values are taking their place. Parent education programs supported by UNICEF contribute to mothers and fathers both assuming new roles in the family.  

Traditionally, UNICEF’s program approaches and policies stress the importance of gender equality, empowerment of women, and strengthening of the family. Specifically, UNICEF’s efforts to address gender inequality have focused on ensuring that girls have the opportunity to enroll in school, and that they are provided with the necessary support to stay in school. Parent education programs help address identified problems related to girls attending school.

Finally, UNICEF recognizes the greater vulnerability of women and girls to the HIV/AIDS crisis, and to armed conflict. Through special attention to the prevention and elimination of discrimination and violence against women and girls, UNICEF contributes to solutions that benefit family members and their communities.

UNICEF Country Offices have different approaches to programming to assist in the elimination gender disparities. See how the offices in the Maldives and Uruguay are undertaking this issue with their work with families.



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