RAWALPINDI, March 7: The United Nations has urged national governments and development partners to invest more in women and girls and step up financial contributions and commitments to promote gender equality at global, regional and national levels.
In a message issued on the eve of the ‘International Women’s Day’, which is being observed on Saturday, the UN said that the day was an occasion to review how far women had come in their struggle for equality, peace and development. “It is also an opportunity to unite, network and mobilise for meaningful change.”
“National governments and international organisations need to adopt gender-responsive budget initiatives. National government budget allocations and public sector expenditures must systematically address gender equality concerns and channel resources where they can achieve the most effective results.
“International organisations must likewise review their own financial commitments to ensure that gender equality receives the priority it deserves.”
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), investments in women and girls “reap positive returns for their health and wellbeing and that of society. Gender equality is a major determinant of health … There is an information gap about the full economic and social costs of inequality”.
Social and financial outlays that raise the status and living conditions of women have tremendous multiplier effects — those who live with more dignity are better able to reach their potential and contribute fully to their communities.
A Planning Commission report says that although half of Pakistan’s population consists of females, their participation in the development process is far from equal and desirable. Socio-cultural traditions reinforced by lack of access to opportunities and resources relegate the majority of women to traditional roles.
In some direct market-oriented economic activities like agriculture, their contribution is substantial but it remains largely undervalued and unappreciated.
Low female participation in formal economic activities in developing countries can be traced to gender disparities in education that has continued since past generations, the Planning Commission’s report on millennium developments goals says.
According to a report compiled by the Ministry of Women Development, the health status of women in Pakistan “is poor as compared with other countries in Asia.
Some 30,000 women die each year due to complications of pregnancy, and 10 times more women develop life-long, pregnancy-related disability. Many girls die prematurely because of common infections and malnutrition, which could have been easily prevented and treated”.
“About 25 per cent of children are born with low birth weight due to material problems. Ten per cent of children do not reach their first birthday. High fertility, with an average of six children per woman, has resulted in a high population growth of about 3 per cent per annum, and if sustained will further increase poverty and environmental deterioration,” the report says.
In a message on the eve of the Women’s Day, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that a lack of political will was 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,” he said.
President Pervez Musharraf said in a message on the occasion that under the firm commitment of gender equality and gender mainstreaming, Pakistan would continue to take necessary measures and initiates to safeguard women’s rights and interests, including those of girls, with all available resources.
He said he hoped the newly-elected government would further enhance and integrate the role of women in national development and would concentrate on devising policies, programmes and strategies to fully utilise the expanding role of women in making the country peaceful and prosperous with ‘zero gender discrimination’.