For UN, Gender Issues Must be Back on Donors' Agenda

Eliminating gender disparity is essential to achieve genuine development. Giving women equal access to education or political decision-making would present avenues to solve this major issue and meet one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

The situation for women worldwide is still critical. Women and girls make up 70 percent of the world's poorest people. The U.N. Development Fund for Women, or UNIFEM, estimated that eight out 10 women workers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are in vulnerable employment, with global economic changes taking a huge toll on their livelihoods.

U.N. Development Program Administrator Helen Clark addressed another aspect of the gender situation during a gathering of non-governmental organizations in Berlin: access to sexual and reproductive health.

"I believe that women have the right to make their own decisions about whether and when to have children; how many to have, and with whom - and then to receive support and care to give birth safety," she told the forum.

Unfortunately, family planning and gender have not been top priorities for donors in recent years. Clark asked for more financial efforts, despite the global recession, to avoid jeopardizing the progress made so far.

"As long as 200 million women in the world have an unmet need for family planning, their chances of finishing their education, being in paid work, and breaking out of poverty are reduced," Clark said. "Unless we make progress on sexual and reproductive health rights, we will find it very hard to gain traction on wider development goals."

Thoraya Obaid, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund, declared that at least $23 billion per year would be needed to stop women from having unintended pregnancies. Such amount, she stressed, does not even represent to even less than 10 days of the world's military spending.

About the author

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    Antoine Remise

    Antoine is a former international development correspondent for Devex, based in Paris. He holds a bachelor's in political science from the Institut d'Etudes Politiques of Lille and a master's in development administration and planning from the University College in London. Antoine has conducted researche for development projects in Chile, Senegal and Uganda, notably on education, health, local saving systems and housing issues. He is fluent in French, English and Spanish.