Advocates Call for Increased Investment in Women, Girls Worldwide To Address Issues Such as HIV/AIDS
Advocates worldwide ahead of International Women's Day on Saturday highlighted issues such as HIV/AIDS, gender equality, discrimination, violence against women and the need to invest in women and girls, the AP/PR-Inside.com reports.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday during a meeting of a U.N. commission on gender equality and advancement of women said that nations should allocate increased resources for health care, nutrition, job opportunities and other needs of women worldwide. "Investing in women helps us fight all the challenges of our time -- from poverty, hunger and illiteracy to environmental degradation and disease, including HIV/AIDS," Ban said (AP/PR-Inside.com, 3/7). He added that gender equality is a prerequisite for reaching the United Nations Millennium Development Goals by 2015. "As we know from long and indisputable experience, investing in women and girls has a multiplier effect on productivity and sustained economic growth," Ban said, adding, "No measure is more important in advancing education and health, including the prevention of HIV/AIDS. No other policy is as likely to improve nutrition or reduce infant and maternal mortality." Ban also pointed out the success of microfinance programs that lend small loans to women in developing countries and called on nations to "explor[e] effective and innovative ways of investing in women around the world" (AFP/Inquirer, 3/6).
U.N. officials also called on countries to mark International Women's Day with renewed efforts to end sexual assault, forced prostitution and other violence against women. Joanne Sandler, acting director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women, called on member nations to "break new ground in the struggle for women's rights" as they mark the annual event, adding that there is an "urgent need to end violence against women in all of its forms." U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Kathleen Cravero also urged the U.N. Security Council to support an eight-year-old pledge to protect women and girls from rape and sexual abuse during armed conflict. "Rape is a crime and must be stopped," Cravero said (AP/PR-Inside.com, 3/7).
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday called for increased political roles for women worldwide, the AP/Google.com reports. Speaking at a conference on women's rights, Rice said, "In today's modern world, no country can achieve lasting success and stability and security if half of its population is sitting on the sidelines." She added that the "international community should make sure that we hear the voices of women and account for their concerns wherever we seek to establish or keep the peace. If we do that, we are actually making the job of keeping the peace easier." Other participants at the conference included Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, Liberian Foreign Minister Olubanke King-Akerele and Egyptian first lady Suzanne Mubarak. European Union External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who hosted the conference, said participants agreed to continue high-level talks to ensure that expanding the roles of women stays at the top of the international agenda (Brand, AP/Google.com, 3/6).
In related news, Monday is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in the U.S. The awareness day is a nationwide initiative that aims to increase awareness about the effect of HIV/AIDS on women and girls in the country through education about safer sex, testing and prevention measures (Plybon, WFMY News 2, 3/10).
A report published Friday by ActionAid said that systematic discrimination against girls and women in developing countries will prevent the United Nations from meeting the MDGs, London's Guardian reports. According to the report, girls and women are more likely to experience poverty, hunger, illiteracy and disease, compared with boys and men. According to the report, African women account for 75% of HIV/AIDS cases among young people.
ActionAid said discussions about the MDGs at the United Nations and at this year's meeting of the Group of Eight industrialized nations in Japan will succeed only if they recognize that the "development emergency is first and foremost an emergency for women and girls." According to the Guardian, if current trends continue, the goal of halving hunger will not be met until 2035, and 40 countries will not have equal school enrollment of girls and boys until after 2025. In addition, reducing maternal mortality rates is less than one-fifth of what was needed to meet the MDG target. Laura Turquet, women's rights policy officer of ActionAid, said, "Getting the goals back on track is about more than governments saving face. Fundamentally, it is about women realizing their basic human rights." She added, "As the lack of progress on maternal health shows, people's lives are at stake" (Elliott, Guardian, 3/7).