UNICEF flagship report says gender equality benefits both women and childrenA call for equality [Archives:2006/1007/Front Page]

December 14 2006

By: Yemen Times Staff

SANA'A, Dec. 13 ) The State of the World's Children 2007 report examines the discrimination and disempowerment women face throughout their lives, as well as outlines what must be done to eliminate gender discrimination and empower women and girls. Looking at the status of women today, it discusses how gender equality will move all Millennium Development Goals forward and shows how investing in women's rights ultimately will produce a double dividend – advancing the rights of both women and children.

The United Nations Children's Fund in Yemen launched the program's 2007 annual report in Sana'a in the presence of Minister of Social Affairs and Labor, Amat Al-Razaq Hummad, and representatives from NGOs, the private sector and the media.

UNICEF representative in Yemen Aboudou Karimou Adjibade briefly reviewed the report, focusing on women's status in Yemen. “When it comes to early marriage, girls' education, maternal mortality and the harmful practice of female genital mutilation, the report ranks us [Yemen] at the bottom of the list,” he said, addressing the audience.

However, Adjibade did shed some light on success stories in girls' education while urging the media to tell the stories of those girls who are attending school, those mothers who are toiling hard to provide their children the best start and those families who believe that safeguarding a child's best interests isn't just a task but an investment in the future of the family, the community and the nation.

Since its inception, equality between men and women has been a U.N. goal. The 1945 U.N. Charter's Preamble notes the objective, “To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.” These words link equality to human development, recognizing that both men and women are essential for the social and economic progress of nations.

More than 60 years ago, global leaders envisioned a world where all people shared equally in rights, resources and opportunities, where abundance ruled and every man, woman and child was free from despair and inequity.

The call for equal rights evolved into a quest for gender equality when a distinction was made between gender and sex. Sex is biological: females have two X chromosomes while males have one X and one Y. Gender, on the other hand, is a social construct that describes what's feminine and what's masculine.

“Women's lives inextricably are linked to the well-being of children,” UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman says, “If they aren't educated, if they aren't healthy, if they aren't empowered, then the children are the ones who suffer.”

The UNICEF report emphasizes recognizing that gender roles aren't inborn but rather learned. Proponents of gender equality challenge the stereotypes and pervasive discrimination that keep women and girls socially and economically disadvantaged.

Hummad expressed her appreciation that this year's report included women and children, which is a new element and a more inclusive perception. “Safe motherhood and women's empowerment and equality lead to happy childhood and a reviving life.” In this regard, she also highlighted government efforts, especially the social affairs ministry, praising its partnership with UNICEF in particular.

Hummad encouraged all stakeholders to participate equally hand in hand for the sake of bettering women and children in Yemen.

The 2007 report shows that although 27 years have elapsed since the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was adopted – and despite the fact that it has received 184 ratifications, accessions and successions by state parties – millions of women and girls throughout the world remain powerless, voiceless and without rights. The negative consequences of women's inequality reverberate throughout society.

During the report's launch, the Yemeni Artists Forum presented a short sketch on girls' education wherein a 12-year-old girl was attempting to fight for her right to study, enjoying the support of her mother but against her father's will. The group encouraged attendees to educate their girls and not let traditions stand in the way of women's empowerment.

Additionally, Amel Al-Qebli represented the Children's Parliament, explaining her views regarding Yemeni children's conditions and what must be done.

UNICEF-Yemen has organized a network among NGOs, artists, the media and the private sector to promote girls' basic education. In line with the report's suggestions, Naseem Ur-Rehman, chief of communications and information at UNICEF-Yemen, mentioned the importance of equality between men and women for the benefit of children as an overall goal.