JIS News

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative, Harold Robinson has said that Jamaica has made significant progress in some aspects of gender equality, such as in education, universal access at the primary level and also in terms of literacy.
Mr. Robinson, who is the UNFPA’s representative to the English and Dutch speaking Caribbean, noted however, that there were still areas that needed intervention, such as ensuring that the prospects brought about by the higher education rates among girls were not diluted in the labour market, and ensuring a reduction in the number of female-headed households now living below the poverty line.
He was addressing a special function to present the State of World Population 2005 Report, which was launched at the Hilton Kingston Hotel on Wednesday, October 12.
The Report focused on gender equality, and was launched under the theme: ‘The Promise of Equality: Gender Equity, Reproductive Health and the Millennium Development Goals’. “Equality also calls for special attention to be given to specific issues affecting males, such as their under participation and/or under achievement in education, their more visible presence in prisons, morgues and crime statistics, all of these are particularly relevant in the case of Jamaica as well as in the rest of the Caribbean,” Mr. Robinson said.
There was no denying, he said, that Jamaica has been a strong international advocate for gender equality and reproductive health. “As Chair of the Group of 77, Jamaica was key to the landmark achievement of enshrining the links between poverty and reproductive health in the outcome document of the UN’s World Summit last month, as well as the inclusion of the target of universal access to reproductive health among the Millennium Development Goals,” he pointed out.
Although the United Nations Charter, which was promulgated 60 years ago, enshrined the equal rights of women and men, Mr. Robinson said there were still laws and practices that contradicted the equality norms set out in this and other international documents and agreements. “As a consequence, across the world women and girls face discrimination. They have fewer social, economic and legal rights than men,” he pointed out.
Mr. Robinson said it was rather hard to believe that in the 21st Century, every minute a woman died from complications of childbirth or pregnancy, and another 20 were seriously injured or disabled. “Virtually all (99 per cent) of these maternal deaths occur in developing countries due to lack of emergency care, which is readily available to wealthier women,” he said.
Imbalances in decision-making power, gender-based violence, economic insecurity and other harmful practices, he said, made women particularly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. These factors, he further noted, limited women’s ability to negotiate the use of condoms with their husbands and partners and as a result, they ended up being the new face of the disease as the majority of new HIV infections took place among women and girls.
Although the epidemic initially affected mostly men, Mr. Robinson noted that to date approximately half of the 40 million people living with HIV were women.
He therefore made an urgent call for world leaders to act now to ensure that there was universal education for all girls and boys; that economic opportunities were open to women; that families, especially those living in poverty, benefited from the support of healthy mothers, and that women were fully empowered to participate in politics and decision-making.
“Let me hasten to add though, that gender equality is not only about women, it is about how both men and women are given the same choices, opportunities and means to fulfill their expectations in life. It is also about engaging men and boys in the process of achieving gender equality for all,” he said.