UN: Call to invest in females to meet Millennium Development Goals by 2015 Print E-mail
 Saturday March 8, 2008

ADDRESSING THE ISSUE

Nations just not spending enough on women, girls


By Ban Ki-moon [Scroll down for media of similar sentiment to Ban Ki-moon's IWD 2008 Statement]

As we know from long and indisputable experience, investing in women and girls has a multiplier effect on productivity and sustained economic growth.

At the 2005 World Summit, governments of all nations agreed that “progress for women is progress for all”. Yet the 10-year review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action revealed a serious gap between policy and practice in many countries. A lack of political will is reflected in the most telling way of all: Lack of resources and insufficient budgetary allocations. That is why the theme of this International Women’s Day is “Investing in Women and Girls”.

This failure of funding undermines not only our endeavours for gender equality and women’s empowerment as such; it also holds back our efforts to reach all the Millennium Development Goals. As we know from long and indisputable experience, investing in women and girls has a multiplier effect on productivity and sustained economic growth. 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.

We do have some progress to build on. Financial resources have been mobilised in increasing women’s employment, enhancing the role of microfinance, advancing credit for enterprises for women, and driving public finance reforms. More than 50 countries have launched gender-responsive budgeting initiatives. The private sector is scaling up efforts to finance women’s economic empowerment, and women’s funds and foundations are emerging as innovative sources of financing.

But we must do more. All of us in the international community ­ governments, multilateral organisations, bilateral institutions and the private sector ­ need to calculate the economic costs of persistent gender inequality, and the resources required to remedy it. We need to create mechanisms for tracking investments in gender equality. We need to monitor and report resource allocations on a regular basis. We need to adjust domestic budgets as well as international aid flows to real needs, and ensure that they are sustained.

In the United Nations family too, we need to better match demands with resources. The resources available for gender mainstreaming must be made more sustainable and predictable ­ particularly at the regional and country levels. And to make a real difference, our gender-specific machinery needs funding that is commensurate with the challenges. I firmly believe that one dynamic and strengthened gender entity, consolidating resources currently scattered among several structures, would attract better funding from the donor community. By mobilising forces of change at the global level, and inspiring enhanced results at the country level, such an entity would better advance our cause to empower women and realise gender equality worldwide. I urge member states to muster the political will to bring the consultations on this issue to a successful conclusion.

This year we find ourselves at the mid-point in the race to reach the Millennium Development Goals by the target date of 2015. Only by investing in the world’s women and girls can we expect to reach our destination. On this International Women’s Day, let us resolve to unite in this mission.

(The writer is the UN Secretary General)


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 London ~~ Saturday March 8 2008

Women are the key

Gordon Brown's 'call to action' on global poverty will fail unless it confronts discrimination against women

Patrick Watt

Today is International Women's Day. And today, like any other day, one woman every minute will die in childbirth, or because of pregnancy-related causes. Poverty is the chief culprit. Some 99% of these deaths will happen in developing countries. The difference in life chances is extreme: in the UK a woman's risk of maternal-related death over her lifetime is one in 3,800. In a West African country such as Niger, it is one in seven.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. In 2000, the world's government's agreed eight "millennium development goals" to tackle extreme poverty, including a commitment to cut maternal deaths by three-quarters by the year 2015. But eight years on, progress in reducing maternal deaths is roughly one fifth of what's required. In Sierra Leone, Pakistan and Guatemala, the situation is worse now than it was 20 years ago.

This September, the UN's secretary general, Ban-Ki Moon, at Gordon Brown's instigation, is hosting a meeting in New York to gauge progress on the eight goals. We may be halfway there in terms of the time that's elapsed, but we're anything but in terms of what's needed to actually meet the targets. As with maternal mortality, so too with halving hunger, cutting child deaths and providing clean water: the picture is one of slow progress or no progress.

There is a common thread that runs through the entire global poverty reduction effort - entrenched inequality between men and women is stymieing progress. Ten million more girls than boys remain out of primary school, and the gap widens at the secondary level. Three-quarters of young people with HIV and Aids in Africa are women. At a time of unprecedented economic expansion in Asia, women are getting a shrinking share of income.

Behind these statistics lie hundreds of millions of personal stories - of the girl who cannot join her brothers at school because she must spend her day collecting water from a distant well; of the young woman with HIV who was unable to make her own decision about who she had sex with; of the woman worker who is caught in underpaid, insecure employment.

Confronting and closing these inequalities is not easy. Often it goes to the heart of how societies are structured. The locus of change must be in developing countries, and countless women are organising themselves to claim rights that are often taken for granted in the richest countries - the right to own property, to participate politically, to be legally protected from violence.

But there's much more that donor governments can and must do to support these efforts. The UN body responsible for women, Unifem, is a $60m minnow, with little capacity or profile. Most aid does a bad job of taking account of the different ways in which poverty affects women and men. Many donors, and most developing countries, don't even collect the data needed to monitor progress and hold politicians to account.

Despite the evidence that the "development emergency" described by Brown last summer is first and foremost an emergency for women and girls, the issue often gets only a token genuflection inside government aid agencies. Current discussions ahead of the UN meeting this September are focused on health and education, climate change, trade and growth and business. It's not that these are the wrong issues to be discussing. But unless they're framed by the simple fact that the dismal progress towards the international development goals reflects a failure to tackle discrimination against women, the prospects of turning the corner on poverty reduction are non-existent.