ABUJA – The UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator, Ms Helen Clark, on Saturday urged countries to invest more time and resources in all aspects of gender equality and women’s empowerment.
This call is contained in her message to the 2014 International Women’s Day on Saturday in Abuja by UNDP’s Communications Specalist, Kelechi Onyemaobi.
She said no country reaches its full potential if its women were not accorded equality as their male counterparts, adding “a society that fails its women and girls ultimately fails itself.
“Let’s mark this International Women’s Day by redoubling our efforts to make equality for women a reality.
“That means ensuring that women have access to education and resources, decent work, and equal pay.
“It means removing the structural barriers such as the discriminatory laws and institutions, and gender stereotypes and practices which prevent women from fulfilling their economic, social and political rights.
“It means getting more women into political offices and ensuring that women have a voice in the decisions which affect their lives —- in households and communities, in government and other sectors, and at peace-keeping tables.
“It means ensuring that women have freedom from violence, access to health care, and the ability to make their own sexual and reproductive health choices.’’
The UNDP official further said the 2014 International Women’s Day theme of “Equality for Women is Progress for All” stated a simple truth.
“This truth is in the fact that no country will reach its full potential if its female citizens did not enjoy full equality,’’ she said.
Clark said there is a strong momentum for achieving development with equity and empowering women and girls, as 2015 approaches and as discussion for next global development agenda intensifies.
She, however, noted that there has been progress for many women and girls, “even as such progress has been uneven and too slow’’.
The UNDP Administrator said while the world had officially achieved gender parity in primary education, regional gaps had persisted and girls’ enrolment dropped off at the secondary level.
“The proportion of women in national parliaments has grown, but women still comprise around only 21 per cent of the world’s parliamentarians.
“Lagging farthest behind is MDG 5, which focuses on reducing maternal mortality and achieving universal access to reproductive health care,” she said.
Clark pointed out that gender equality makes economic sense, strengthens democracy, and enables long-term sustainable progress and does not just improve the lives of individual women, girls and their families.
The UNDP official called on countries to give attention to the education of women, saying educated women “tend to have fewer and healthier children, better economic opportunities, and are more likely to ensure that their own children go to school”.
She explained that access to sexual and reproductive health services enabled women to plan their families and expand their opportunities as well as help prevent maternal and child mortality.
The UNDP Administrator said making sure women farmers had equal access to agricultural resources boosted their incomes and status, and had a positive impact on a country’s agricultural sector.
She further said that “investing time and resources in gender equality and women’s empowerment is the path to fulfilling the rights of women and men, and creating a more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient world’’.(NAN)