United Nations, July 23 (Canadian-Media): UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, has just wrapped up a visit to Somalia, where she engaged with national authorities there on how to better address conflict-related sexual violence, resulting in a new Government commitment to help end the scourge, UN reports said.
IOM. Image credit: Twitter handle
Accompanied by Deqa Yasin, Minister of Women and Human Rights Development, Ms. Patten visited Baidoa for talks with the President of South West State, several members of his Cabinet and civil society organizations. She also met social workers involved in an International Organization for Migration (IOM)- supported Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration project, to assist women and girls formerly associated with extremist group Al Shabab.
Due to severe security constraints, she was unable to meet with survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, however she did liaise with women’s grassroots organizations and service providers in both Baidoa and Mogadishu that provided insight into the immense protection challenges faced by survivors, particularly in displacement settings.
The visit concluded with an express commitment by the Government to work with the UN, and the Office of the Special Representative to develop a new National Action Plan to End Sexual Violence in Conflict to implement the Joint Communiqué.
New York, Jul 19 (Canadian-Media): Because the “earliest years” of life are the most crucial, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) published a list of new family-friendly policy recommendations on Friday it says will likely reap “huge” benefits.
Grandmother of two, Roopa Devi Lohar, working. Image Credit: L © UNICEF/UN0322054/Kolari
“There is no other time more critical to children’s lives than their earliest years”, said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, “which is why we need a transformative shift in how businesses and governments invest in policies and practices that not only support healthy brain development, but also strengthen the bond between parents and their children – and reap huge economic and social benefits in return.”
And yet, policies, such as paid parental leave, breastfeeding breaks and affordable childcare are not available for most parents around the world. Family-Friendly Policies: Redesigning the Workplace of the Future, outlines the latest evidence and new recommendations that lay the foundation for healthy development, success and poverty reduction.
Paid parental leave
According to UNICEF, a one-month increase in paid maternity leave in low-and-middle income countries has been found to reduce infant mortality rates by 13 per cent. In high-income countries, each additional week of paid parental leave is associated with more than a four per cent lower chance of single mothers living in poverty. Paid parental leave of six months also helps promote exclusive breastfeeding, according to the agency.
Moreover, it also contributes to lower staff turnover rates, lower recruitment and training costs, and retention of experienced employees. For countries that have had these policies in place for the past several decades, increases in female employment have boosted GDP per capita growth by between 10 per cent and 20 per cent.
UNICEF recommends at least six months of paid leave for all parents combined, with 18 weeks reserved specifically for mothers.
Regular breaks during working hours to breastfeed, or to express breastmilk in a supportive environment, contributes to lower rates of acute infant and chronic child illness as well as improved cognitive and educational outcomes, UNICEF says.
The benefits for mothers include lower rates of postnatal depression, improved physical health and a reduction in the lifetime risk of breast cancer. Optimal breastfeeding practices produce societal benefits in what UNICEF estimated to be a $35 to $1 return on investment.
And yet, the latest available data shows only 40 per cent of children under six months are exclusively breastfed, as recommended.
Because the workplace represents a substantial barrier to breastfeeding, with around 16 per cent of workplaces without any statutory requirements to support it, breastfeeding is another priority recommendation of the new policy manifesto.
“The gains of family-friendly policies far outweigh the cost of implementation: improved health outcomes, reductions in poverty, increased business productivity, and economic growth,” Ms. Fore asserted.
Universal access to affordable, quality childcare from the end of parental leave until a child’s entry into the first grade of school is the brief’s third recommendation.
Children who receive quality and nurturing early childcare are healthier, learn better and stay in school longer, and have higher earnings as adults. Childcare provisions enable parents to meet their work obligations and be parents at home.
Expanded coverage of cash benefits should be part of all countries’ social protection system for young children.
A recent analysis indicated that only one-in-three households globally receive child or family cash benefit that varied from 88 per cent in Europe and Central Asia, to 28 per cent in Asia and the Pacific, and 16 per cent in Africa.
In translation, the majority of children in the poorest countries do not yet receive cash benefits to support their development.
“Investing in our families is smart social policy, but it’s smart economic policy as well”, concluded the UNICEF chief.
25 years after population conference, women still face challenges to ‘well-being and human rights’, says UN chief
New York, July 17 (Canadian-Media/UN): Many women and girls “still face enormous challenges to their health, well-being and human rights”, Secretary-General António Guterres told a High-level General Assembly meeting on Tuesday conevened to mark the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), a milestone in reproductive health and rights, UN reports said.
A mid-wife at the Sar-e-Hause medical health clinic in Tajikhan Village, Afghanistan, speaks with a mother and her 5-month-old baby. (10 May 2012). Credit: World Bank/Graham Crouch
“Violence against women and girls affects one-in-three women worldwide”, the UN chief stated, adding that that number is “even higher” in parts of the world and during conflict and emergencies.
While the progress that has been achieved in women’s rights over the past 25 years has contributed to reducing poverty and hunger and improving education and health, globally, some 650 million women were married as children, and every day, more than 500 women and girls die during pregnancy and childbirth.
“We are seeing a global pushback on women’s rights, including reproductive rights and vital health services”, he informed the participants.
The conference, held in Cairo, “rightly emphasized” that promoting the rights of women and girls is “key to ensuring the well-being of individuals, families and nations”, he said. “It recognized gender equality as a pre-requisite to inclusive, sustainable development and affirmed sexual and reproductive health as a fundamental human right”.
The Cairo Programme of Action, the Conference's landmark outcome document, recognizes that women’s rights and access to sexual and reproductive health are an essential response to demographic trends that could undermine sustainable, equitable and inclusive development for all.
Young women and men are central to implementing the Cairo Programme, not only as beneficiaries, “but powerful agents of change, able to make their own choices and demand the action needed to address today’s challenges”, Mr. Guterres argued.
“This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of UNFPA, the UN Population Fund, which has had a major role in implementing the Cairo Programme of Action”, the Secretary-General noted. “Through its leadership and operational work, UNFPA has been instrumental in empowering young people and enabling women and couples to access the sexual and reproductive health care they need; in preventing gender-based violence; and in tackling female genital mutilation and early marriage”.
He told the participants that in November, Kenya and Denmark, together with UNFPA, will convene a summit in Nairobi to mark the 25th anniversary of the Cairo Conference, encouraging Member States “to participate and to make firm political and financial commitments to realize the Programme of Action.
Holistic, coherent programmeMr. Guterres stated that many of the policies set out in the Cairo action plan – from tackling inequality and environmental degradation, to promoting gender equality and access to sexual and reproductive health – “remain fundamental to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, agreed two decades later”, calling it “a testament” to its “enduring legacy”.
He recalled that the Conference shifted thinking around population from specific demographic targets towards a greater emphasis on the rights, equality, dignity and well-being of individuals’ lives.
“One of its most important achievements was in making the link between population, human rights, sustained economic growth and sustainable development, and addressing these issues in a holistic and coherent way”, maintained the UN chief.
While the Secretary-General heralded population growth as a sign of “human achievement”, because it meant people were living longer, healthier lives, he acknowledged that it had also contributed to “an increase in global production and consumption” – underpinning the need to adjust production and consumption habits to avert serious consequences for lives and livelihoods, especially for the most vulnerable.
“Completing the unfinished business of the Cairo Conference will put us on course to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to ensure lives of peace, prosperity and dignity for all”, concluded the UN chief.