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UNICEF flagship report says gender equality benefits both women and children

© UNICEF/HQ95-0980/Noorani
A woman walks with her two children on a train platform at the Kamlapur Railway Station in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Like many other rural Bangladeshis, she has been attracted to the city by the promise of work.

By Rachel Bonham-Carter

NEW YORK, USA, 10 December 2006 – On its 60th anniversary today, UNICEF is launching a report that says gender equality is critical to child survival and development.

“The lives of women are inextricably linked to the well-being of children,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman. “If they are not educated, if they are not healthy, if they are not empowered, the children are the ones who suffer.”

The State of the World’s Children 2007, this year’s edition of UNICEF’s flagship publication, examines the status of women around the world. It concludes that an end to gender discrimination produces the ‘double dividend’ of benefiting women and children – which, in turn, has a positive impact on the health and development of societies everywhere.

The report argues that recent progress in women’s status has not come far enough. Millions of girls and women continue to live in poverty, disempowered and discriminated against. They are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, less likely to attend school and often subject to physical and sexual violence. In most places, men continue to earn more pay than women for the same jobs.

Women need a voice

© UNICEF Malaysia/2006/Nadchatram
Azra Tasneem bt. Vazeer Alam with her mother Amira Banu bt Hj Rahumathullah. Azra feels she owes her resilience to support and guidance she receives from her mother.

Empowering women, explains the report, saves children’s lives – and the impact is too important to ignore. As one example it cites a study by the International Food Policy Research Institute, which concludes there would be 13.4 million fewer undernourished children in South Asia if men and women there had equal influence in decision-making.

Moreover, the report finds, in families where women are the main decision-makers, a far greater proportion of household resources is devoted to child health, nutrition and education than in families where women do not have a voice.

Yet in only 10 out of 30 developing countries surveyed did 50 per cent or more of women participate in all household decisions.

Seven key interventions

The report suggests seven key interventions for gender equality:

  • Abolish school fees and invest in girls’ education
  • Invest government funding in gender equality
  • Enact legislation to create a level playing field for women, and to prevent and respond to domestic violence as well as gender-based violence in conflict
  • Ensure women’s participation in politics
  • Involve women’s grassroots organisations early on in policy development
  • Engage men and boys so the importance of gender equality can be understood by all
  • Improve research and data on gender issues, which are critical if progress is to be made.

Promoting gender equality is the focus of Millennium Development Goal 3. If this goal is achieved, UNICEF believes, benefits will be felt not just amongst women and children but in many other spheres – from poverty and hunger reduction to global health and environmental sustainability.

‘The State of the World’s Children 2007’ shows that in the long run, empowering women will enhance efforts to reach all of the other Millennium Development Goals by 2015.



About SOWC: The State of the World’s Children is UNICEF’s annual flagship publication.  It is the most comprehensive survey of global trends affecting children.  In addition to analysis of major issues, it provides a complete almanac of up-to-date statistical data on children.



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