The State Of the World's Children 2007 →
Women and children: The double dividend of gender equality
An exhibit of the State of the World’s Children (SOWC) 2007, UNICEF’s flagship publication, was displayed at the United Nations Secretariat in New York at the occasion of the 51st session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in February and March 2007. Over 40 photographs and illustrative graphs were shown on 13 panels with excerpts from the report.

During the 39th session of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), when the committee celebrates its 25th Anniversary, the UN entities will be displaying their work at the UN Secretariat for the week of 23 July. Copies of the SOWC 2007 summary will be circulated and a panel from the exhibit will be displayed.

This multimedia feature highlights the exhibit in commemoration of the anniversary.
©UNICEF/HQ95-0980/ Shehzad Noorani
 
Gender equality is central to achieving all the Millennium Development Goals and creating a world of equity and tolerance. It furthers the cause of child survival and development by ensuring that girls and boys have equal access to food, health care, education, protection from harm and opportunities.

Yet gender discrimination against women and girls remains pervasive in every region of the world. The State of the World’s Children 2007 reports on the lives of women and children around the world. Gender equality and the well-being of children go hand in hand. When women are empowered to live full and productive lives, children prosper. The opposite is also true: When women are denied equal opportunity within a society, children suffer.
©UNICEF/HQ05-1034/Radhika Chalasani
Gender discrimination persists
Despite the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1979, gender discrimination is pervasive in every region of the world.

The consequences of gender discrimination and bigotry affect every aspect of women’s lives, often starting from an early age. The oppression of women and girls can include parental preference for sons over daughters; limited personal, educational and professional choices for women and girls; the denial of basic human rights; and outright gender-based violence.
©UNICEF/HQ00-0623/Roger LeMoyne
Discrimination against girls
Gender discrimination can start even before birth through prenatal selection. In middle childhood, discrimination results in 115 girls being out of primary school for every 100 boys. In adolescence, discrimination puts girls at risk of child marriage, premature pregnancy and motherhood while they are still children themselves. Relatively high rates of illiteracy among girls and women hinder their ability to protect themselves against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
©UNICEF/HQ01-0298/Shehzad Noorani
Discrimination against women
Gender discrimination can show itself in households and communities, in the workplace, and in politics and government. At home, girls and women do the majority of domestic work – often in addition to their paid employment and education. Yet they have less control than men over household income, fewer property rights and often little influence on crucial household decisions, such as daily household spending and their own health care.

Many of the pernicious effects of gender discrimination, from lower levels of education to prevailing social attitudes that challenge women’s competence as decision makers, hinder their participation in politics and government.
©UNICEF/HQ05-1679/Josh Estey
A world without gender discrimination
Gender equality is essential if the Millennium Development Goals are to be met on time and in full. Within the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals, and at the heart of the United Nations itself, is the acknowledgement that the vulnerable, especially children, require special care and attention.
©UNICEF/HQ05-1609/Giacomo Pirozzi
 
MDG 2: Achieve universal primary education

Target: Ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling. Indicators: Net enrolment ratio in primary education; proportion of pupils starting grade 1 who reach grade 5; literacy rate of 15-24-year-olds.

MDG 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

Target: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015. Indicators: Ratio of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education; ratio of literate women to men 15-24 years old; share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector; proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments.
©UNICEF/HQ04-0474/Louise Gubb
 
Despite ingrained and pernicious gender inequality, the status of women and girls has improved over the past three decades. Girls are present in increasing numbers in education, and in many regions, women’s participation in government and politics has risen. By promoting legal and economic reforms, proponents of gender equality have begun to reshape the social and political landscape. Building on this process is critical to achieving not only gender equality but also sustainable development.
©UNICEF/HQ04-0474/Louise Gubb
Road map for maximizing gender equality
The road map for maximizing gender equality has seven key steps: education, financing, legislation, legislative quotas, women empowering women, engaging men and boys, and improved research and data.

Education
Ensuring that girls and boys have equal educational opportunities is one of the most powerful steps towards combating gender discrimination. Key actions include abolishing school fees, encouraging parents and communities to invest in girls’ education and creating girl-friendly schools that are safe and without bias.

Focusing additional resources on achieving gender equality
Far too little recognition has been given to the resources required to meet the goal of gender equality and women’s empowerment.
©UNICEF/HQ06-1473/Pirozzi, UNICEF/HQ05-1568/Pirozzi
 
Levelling the playing field in national legislation
Legislative reform can be a powerful empowerment strategy for women and girls and for the safeguarding of their rights.

Quotas can encourage women’s participation in politics
Quotas are a proven method of ensuring women break through the political glass ceiling. To be truly effective, however, quotas must be supported by political parties and electoral systems that are committed to encouraging women’s participation in politics and government.

Women empowering women
Grass-roots women’s movements have been the most vocal champions of women’s equality and empowerment, but they are sometimes overlooked by national governments and international agencies. Involving women in the early stages of policy formulation helps ensure that programmes are designed with the needs of women and children in mind.
©UNICEF/HQ06-0321/Pirozzi, UNICEF/HQ05-0923/Noorani
 
Engaging men and boys
Men can be powerful allies in the struggle for women’s equality. Advocacy initiatives designed to educate both women and men on the benefits of gender equality and joint decision-making can help nurture a more cooperative relationship between them.

Research and data are sorely lacking
An overwhelming lack of gender-disaggregated statistics often results in scant or weak quantitative evidence on the issues that affect women and, in turn, children. Better and more extensive data and analysis are urgently required.

Eliminating gender discrimination will produce a double dividend, fulfilling the rights of women and going a long way towards realizing those of children as well. Effective partnerships can support this process through the design and implementation of human rights-based development strategies. For women, men, and for children, the time to refocus our efforts is now.
©UNICEF/HQ06-0885/Furrer, UNICEF/HQ00-0590/Hernandez-Claire
Gender discrimination across the life cycle
• Gender discrimination begins early. Modern diagnostic tools for pregnancy have made it possible to determine a child’s sex in the earliest phase, yet the misuse of these techniques can facilitate female foeticide.

• More than 115 million children of primary school age did not attend school in 2002. For every 100 boys not attending primary school, there are 115 girls in the same situation.

• Nearly one out of every five girls in primary school in the developing world does not complete primary education.

• In the developing world, an average of 43 per cent of girls of appropriate age attend secondary school. Research shows that educated women are less likely to die in childbirth and more likely to send their children to school.
©UNICEF/HQ04-1279/Pirozzi
 
• More than 130 million women and girls alive today have been subjected to genital mutilation or cutting, which can have grave health consequences, including increased susceptibility to HIV infection, childbirth complications, inflammatory diseases and urinary incontinence.

• Globally, 36 per cent of women between ages 20 and 24 were married or in union before they reached 18.Premature pregnancy and childbirth is often a dangerous consequence of child marriage.

• An estimated 14 million girls between ages 15 and 19 give birth each year. If a mother is under 18, her baby’s chance of dying in the first year of life is 60 per cent greater than if a baby is born to a mother over 19.

• Every minute, a woman dies as a result of pregnancy complications, adding up to more than half a million women each year. Some 99 per cent of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries, with over 90 per cent of those in Africa and Asia.
©UNICEF/HQ05-1796/Giacomo Pirozzi
 
• One out of every 16 sub-Saharan African women will die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth, compared to just 1 out of every 4,000 women in industrialized countries. Motherless newborns are up to 10 times more likely to die than newborns whose mothers survive.

• In parts of Africa and the Caribbean, young women aged 15 to 24 are up to six times more likely to be infected with HIV than young men their age. Women are at greater risk of contracting HIV than men partly because of their physiology. But gender discrimination also plays a role, denying women the negotiating power needed to reduce their risk of infection.

• High rates of illiteracy among women prevent them from knowing about the risks of HIV infection.

• Elderly women may face double discrimination on the basis of both gender and age. Women tend to live longer than men, may lack control of family resources and face discrimination from inheritance and property laws.
©UNICEF/HQ06-1340/Claudio Versiani
How to achieve gender equality
To achieve gender equality and sustainable development, women’s influence in the key decisions that shape their lives and those of their children must be enhanced. This must happen in the household, where women’s influence has the most direct impact on families and children; in the workplace, where ending the wage gap, opening higher-paying fields to women and allowing female workers more decision-making power will greatly benefit children; and in the political arena, where women’s participation has the power to change societies.
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The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) is a worldwide partnership and movement committed to the goals of narrowing the gender gap in primary and secondary education and ensuring that, by 2015, all children complete primary schooling, with girls and boys having equal access to free, quality education.

UNICEF is the lead agency and Secretariat for UNGEI.

UNICEF is the driving force that helps build a world where the rights of every child are realized. UNICEF has the global authority to influence decision-makers, and the variety of partners at grassroots level to turn the most innovative ideas into reality. That makes us unique among world organizations, and unique among those working with the young.

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