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Nigeria/UN, Sep 25 (Canadian-Media): Fragile gains made over the past decade to advance women and children’s health are threatened by conflict, the climate crisis and COVID-19, according to a new report from Every Woman Every Child, released on Friday.
Young women and girls carry water in Nigeria (file photo). Image credit: World Bank
Protect the Progress: Rise, Refocus, Recover, 2020 highlights that since the movement was launched 10 years ago, spearheaded by then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, there has been remarkable progress in improving the health of the world’s women, children and adolescents, with under-five deaths reached an all-time recorded low in 2019, and more than 1 billion children were vaccinated over the past decade.
Coverage of immunization, skilled birth attendant and access to safe drinking water reached over 80 per cent. Maternal deaths declined by 35 per cent since 2000, with the most significant declines occurring from 2010. An estimated 25 million child marriages were also prevented over the past decade, says the report.
Prioritize women and girls: UN deputy chief
However, conflict, climate instability and the COVID-19 pandemic are putting the health and well-being of all children and adolescents at risk. The COVID-19 crisis, in particular, is exacerbating existing inequities, with reported disruptions in essential health interventions disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable women and children.
“We know that women and children are the foundation of our communities and of our future”, said UN deputy chief, Amina Mohammed, in a video message broadcast during the report launch online. “Plans to respond to and recover from COVID-19 must prioritize their rights, and ensure continued access to services that support health, access to clean water, nutrition and education.
“While much is still unknown and uncertain, our collective goal endures: for women, children and adolescents everywhere to survive and thrive, and for their lives to be transformed”, added the Deputy Secretary-General.
Death ‘every six seconds
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, a child under the age of five died every six seconds somewhere around the world”, said Henrietta Fore, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director.
“Millions of children living in conflict zones and fragile settings face even greater hardship with the onset of the pandemic. We need to work collectively to meet immediate needs caused by the pandemic while also strengthening health systems. Only then can we protect and save lives.”
Last year, 5.2 million children under the age of 5 and 1 million adolescents died of preventable causes. Every 13 seconds a newborn baby died. Every hour 33 women did not survive childbirth; and 33,000 girls a day were forced into marriages, usually involving much older men.
The report examines the deep-rooted inequities which continue to deprive women, children and adolescents of their rights, noting that where you are born, is a significant determinant of survival.
“For too long, the health and rights of women, children, and adolescents have received insufficient attention and services have been inadequately resourced”, said former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Board Chair of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, Helen Clark.
“We call on all partners to work together to support governments to strengthen health systems and tackle the inequities that constrain progress.”
Narrow the gap
The report calls upon the global community to fight COVID-19 while honoring and respecting commitments that can improve the lives of women and children, and not widen the gap between promise and reality.
“The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to turn back the clock on years of progress in reproductive, maternal, child and adolescent health. This is unacceptable,” said Muhammad Ali Pate, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank Group.
“The GFF partnership will double down on its efforts to engage with partners and countries and honor the global commitment to ensure that all women, adolescents and children can access the quality, affordable health care they need to survive and thrive.”
The past decade of progress to advance the health of women, children and adolescents must be protected from the impact of the pandemic and the responses to it, the report emphasizes.
“As we respond to COVID-19 and reimagine a better future, with sustained peace, including at home, we must repeat unequivocally that the rights of women and girls are not negotiable. Even in times of crisis – especially in times of crisis – their sexual and reproductive health and rights must be safeguarded at all costs”, said Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of UN reproductive rights agency, UNFPA.
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UN, Sep 5 (Canadian-Media): Exactly 25 years after the historic world conference in Beijing on the advancement and equality of women, the head of the UN gender empowerment agency declared on Friday that “its significance is undimmed”.
While women have come a long way since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action nearly 25 years ago, they still lag behind on virtually every Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). Image credit: UN Women India
Looking back on the Fourth World Conference on Women in the Chinese capital, UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said in a statement that “we have seen the strength and impact of collective activism grow and have been reminded of the importance of multilateralism and partnership to find common solutions to shared problems.”
Defining framework for change
The deliberations of the Conference back in 1995 resulted in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – an agenda for change across 12 critical areas to realize the human rights of women and girls – whose continued relevance “cannot be overstated today”, Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said.
The Platform imagined a world in which every woman and girl could exercise her freedoms and realize her rights, such as to live free from violence, attend school, participate in decisions and earn equal pay for equal work.
A quarter of a century later, no country is even close to fully delivering on the commitments of Platform, according to a major stock-taking UN Women report.
Hard-won advances under threat
UN Women said that the anniversary represents “a wake-up call and comes at a time when the impact of the gender equality gaps is undeniable.
“Research shows the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating pre-existing inequalities and threatening to halt or reverse the gains of decades of collective effort – with just released new data revealing that the pandemic will push 47 million more women and girls below the poverty line.”
The far-reaching social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the significant increases in violence against women, “threaten to reverse many of the hard-won advances made in the last 25 years to empower women and girls”, flagged the UN Women chief.
“At the same time”, she maintained “the outstanding value of women’s leadership through the COVID-19 pandemic is in plain sight, along with the recognition of just how much women’s work and women’s movements have sustained the world, from domestic life, the fight for human rights, to national economies”.
She pointed out that by next year, 435 million women and girls are likely to have been reduced to extreme poverty, calling on Governments, local administrations, businesses and enterprises of all sorts to “not let this happen”.
To tackle persistent systemic barriers to equality, the UN official stressed the importance of “transformative approaches and new alliances” that engage the private sector alongside Governments and civil society.
“This is a reset moment”, upheld Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka. “The economic and policy lifeboats for our struggling world must put women and children first”.
The political will of leaders can make a difference.
The UN Women chief pointed to those convening at the UN General Assembly, saying that they can use their power “to accelerate the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”.
“Our humanitarian responses to COVID-19, our economic stimulus packages, our reinventions of working life and our efforts to create solidarity across social and physical distance – these are all chances to build back better for women and girls”, she underscored.
Recipe for successIn 2019, the UN launched the global campaign Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights for an Equal Future, which called for renewed commitment by Governments in partnership with civil society, academia and the private sector.
On 1 October there will be a High-Level Meeting on the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action convened by the President of the General Assembly where Member States can put into action their commitments toward a more gender-equal world.
“On this important anniversary, let us reaffirm the promises the world made to women and girls in 1995”, the UN Women chief asserted.
“Let us draw on the activist spirit of the Beijing Conference and commit to forging new alliances across generations and sectors to ensure we seize this opportunity for deep, systemic change for women and for the world”, she concluded.
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UN, Sep 5 (Canadian-Media): Young women are fighting interconnected battles for “environmental, economic and racial justice”, the deputy UN chief said in a discussion on Sep 3.
A female engineer checks on a construction site in Amman, Jordan.
Image credit: © ILO/Jared J. Kohler
UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told the second of a series of roundtable discussions with renowned women economists that she was honoured to witness the bold ideas put forward by “a generation that is confronted by a world increasingly characterized by closure, rather than openness, xenophobia, rather than tolerance, vulnerability, rather than security, and, above all, a world haunted by the existential threat of climate change”.
Failure without women
While acknowledging the unfairness of their having to shoulder burdens that they did not create, she pointed out that “status, country, and identity markers” that one is born with, are “little more than a matter of chance”.
“We require an intersectional lens” to overcome barriers, upheld the deputy UN chief, underscoring that “importantly”, any effort that does not involve women themselves, “will ultimately fail”.
Ms. Mohammed said that the young economists presented “concrete, tangible, and bold solutions to two pressing issues facing youth today” – namely job scarcity and climate change – calling it “a further reminder of the need for us to listen to the voices of this generation”.
“They are not the next generation”, she continued, “they are the current generation and leaders, because it is in fact their world that we are building through our response and recovery to this crisis”.
Noting the Financing for Development initiative at the Ministers of Finance meeting next week and the High-Level discussions of the General Assembly that will follow, Ms. Mohammed maintained that it is “our job to do justice to these solutions and ensure that we propel them forward”.
A silver lining
The deputy UN chief highlighted a “unique moment” presented by COVID, one in which “stakeholders are willing to discuss the hard questions” as they relate to economic models and financial architecture where innovative solutions were once “relegated to the fringes of economic thought”.
“This would not have been possible even a few months ago”, she flagged, urging everyone to capitalize on the moment and “reorient the global financial system to make it truly work for all”.
Recognizing that systemic problems will continue to persist “unless significant action is taken”, she concluded her remarks by expressing confidence that “we are crafting the solutions we need for a more resilient, equal, inclusive and sustainable world as we overcome the COVID-19 crisis and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”.
Meanwhile, in his opening video remarks, Secretary-General António Guterres noted that as the social and economic fallout from the pandemic grows “ever more severe”, and the longer-term structural consequences “increasingly evident”, COVID-19 induced “seismic shifts” requiring bold ideas and innovative solutions, “particularly from younger generations”.
Recognizing that the impacts of the pandemic “have yet to be fully realized”, Mr. Guterres stressed the need to reskill young workers with the right abilities for the future economy.
“These include investing in technology skills, human skills that can’t be replaced by automation, and those aligned with green jobs”, the UN chief detailed.
Bold actions needed
Turning to the climate emergency, the top UN official said, “we face an existential crisis that is getting worse by the day”.
“We need polluters to pay for their pollution, an end to subsidies for fossil fuels and no new coal-fired power plants”, he spelled out, adding “we need bold actions that balance people, planet and prosperity”.
“These must be central to strategies that will allow us to recover better”, concluded the Secretary-General.
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UN, Sep 2 (Canadian-Media): The coronavirus pandemic and its fallout will likely push 47 million more women into poverty, reversing decades of progress to eradicate extreme poverty, new data released on Wednesday by the UN has revealed.
A mother holds her child in a marginalized community where she lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Due to the pandemic, many people have lost their livelihoods and sources of income, with women the worst affected.Image credit: UN Women/Fahad Kaizer
The study, commissioned by UN Women and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), points to a 9.1 per cent increase in the poverty rate for women.
Prior to COVID-19, the rate was expected to decrease by 2.7 per cent between 2019 and 2021.
The projections also show that while the pandemic will impact global poverty generally, women will be disproportionately affected, especially women of reproductive age.
By 2021, for every 100 men aged 25 to 34 living in extreme poverty (living on $1.90 a day or less), there will be 118 women, a gap that is expected to increase to 121 women per 100 men by 2030.
Data summarized in the report, From Insights to Action: Gender Equality in the wake of COVID-19, also shows that COVID-19 will push 96 million into extreme poverty by 2021 – 47 million of whom are women and girls. This will increase the total number of them living in extreme poverty to 435 million, with projections indicating that this number will not revert to pre-pandemic levels until 2030.
Women at the heart of recovery Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director, said that the increases in women’s extreme poverty are a “stark indictment of deep flaws” in the ways that society and the economy are structured.
“We know that women take most of the responsibility for caring for the family; they earn less, save less and hold much less secure jobs – in fact, overall, women’s employment is 19 per cent more at risk than men’s."
She added that the evidence of multiple inequalities should now drive “swift, restorative policy action” that puts women at the heart of pandemic recovery.
Reducing gender inequality ‘affordable’
According to Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, more than 100 million women and girls could be lifted out of poverty if governments improve access to education and family planning, fair and equal wages, and expand social transfers.
“Women are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis as they are more likely to lose their source of income and less likely to be covered by social protection measures”, he said.
“Investing in reducing gender inequality is not only smart and affordable, but also an urgent choice that governments can make to reverse the impact of the pandemic on poverty reduction,” he added.
According to a UN Women report, gender-responsive policymaking is crucial to close gender poverty gaps. Image credit: UN Women
Action needed now
While its findings are alarming, the study estimates it would take just 0.14 per cent of global GDP (about $2 trillion) to lift the world out of extreme poverty by 2030; and $48 billion to close the gender poverty gap.
However, if governments fail to act or act too late the real number could end up much higher. Similarly, increases in other pre-existing gender inequalities could also impact the final figures.
For instance, women working in some of the sectors most affected by the pandemic, such as hospitality, food services, and domestic services, are particularly vulnerable to layoffs and loss of livelihood.