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Gender inequality limits children’s development

EAP Regional launch of State of the World's Children 2007, Philippines
© UNICEF/Philippines
Regional launch of State of the World's Children, Cebu, Philippines

Cebu, Philippines, 12 December 2006

The numbers are in on trends affecting children’s welfare across the globe, and the links between improving women’s rights and children’s development are clear.  UNICEF has revealed in its latest report that getting women on equal footing in the household, the workplace and in the political sphere will translate into better conditions for the world’s 2.18 billion children.

In its report: State of the World’s Children (SOWC) 2007, UNICEF examines the relationship between gender  inequality and the situation of children.  The report shows how the extent to which societies discriminate against their women, affects their children’s chances to develop and thrive.

“Because women are the primary caregivers for children, women’s well-being contributes to the well-being of their offspring.  Healthy, educated and empowered women are more likely to have healthy, educated and confident daughters and sons,” the report states, referring to it as the double dividend of gender equality.

The SOWC is UNICEF’s flagship report, presenting the most comprehensive survey and up-to-date official UN statistics and data on global trends affecting children.  Used by governments, NGOs and the academia as the premier authority on childhood, the publication’s launch here in Cebu marks the culmination of the 18-day Campaign to End Violence Against Women and Children.

For the Philippines, the report presents key areas of concern that requires decisive action, particularly in women’s health care. 

  • The country has a maternal mortality rate of 200 annual deaths from pregnancy-related causes per 100,000 births, one of the highest in the East Asia and Pacific region. 
  • While 88% of Filipino women aged 15-49 are attended to at least once during pregnancy by skilled health personnel, only 60% are actually supervised by doctors, nurses or midwives during delivery.
  • According to the report, an estimated 1.8 million children across the globe are now involved in commercial sex work.  UNICEF admits that consistent statistics in sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking in the Philippines are difficult to monitor, and urges more extensive study on the situation.  However, the SOWC reports that 12% of Filipino children between 5-14 years old are already involved in economic activity of some kind.
  • “As a result of adherence to traditional gender roles, many girls are denied their right to an education or may suffer the triple burden of housework, schoolwork and work outside the home, paid or unpaid,” the report states.
  • The majority of trafficked children in the Philippines are female, due to the high demand for jobs in housekeeping and services, as well as for sexual exploitation.

The HIV/AIDS situation is no less dire, with an estimated 12,000 Filipinos of all ages now living with HIV.  Recent data indicates that the number of women infected with HIV in the Philippines is increasing.

Despite these challenges, the report found good news for the Philippines as well.  Filipino men and women shared an adult literacy rate of 93%.  The Philippines is also among developing countries where women exercised a greater degree of participation in household decisions.  Only 4.9% of Filipino women said their husbands alone made decisions regarding their health.  Filipino women were able to participate in decisions on daily household expenditures, and visits to friends and relatives, in contrast to their counterparts in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.  With gender equality in the household among the report’s main focus, Filipino women’s participation in decision-making is a considerable step. 

Other areas where gender equality was determined to be most influential for change were in employment, and in politics and government.  Figures point to women working more across the globe, and yet owning and earning less than men.  As for women participating in politics and government, the report points out that generally their involvement is more likely to lead to policies and legislation beneficial to children and families. 

The report provides several recommendations to benefit both women and children including more action in education, financing, legislation and improving research and data.  Their roadmap also provides for working on women to empower other women and engaging men and boys in the struggle for equality.  Establishing legislative quotas for the involvement of women in politics and government is also suggested.



For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Dale Rutstein:    UNICEF Manila, 901 0177 or 0917 866 4969,

Kathleen Pobre:   UNICEF Manila, 901 0173 or 0917 858 9447,

Jingjing Romero: STRATOS, Inc., 929 9618 or 0918 9042415,





Related links

More information

Speech of Anupama Rao Singh, Regional Director at the East Asia and Pacific launch

East Asia and Pacific questions and answers on SOWC 2007


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