Progress goes hand in hand with Women's Empowerment

A doctor from the WHO attending
to three women in Jammu and
Kashmir, Pakistan.
(Garhi Habibullah/UN Photo)

Source: Associated Press of Pakistan

Empowering women and advancing their rights can lead to progress on a range of issues, including the fight against poverty, hunger and violence. This was stressed this week by the head of UN Women, the U.N. agency tasked with promoting women’s rights in Pakistan, former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

“Promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment is not solely a plea for justice or for fulfilling human rights commitments”, Bachelet said in her opening statement to the annual session of the Executive Board of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. 

“Where we fail to capitalize on the potential and talents of one half of the population, we also squander the potential to reduce poverty, hunger,disease, environmental degradation and violence,” stated Ms Baechelet, who also noted that  a recent report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that closing the gender productivity gap arising from unequal access of women to productive resources would reduce the number of undernourished people by 12 to 17 per cent. 

That translates into 100 to 150 million fewer people living in hunger. Also, countries  are beginning to count the cost of domestic violence to health and in lost workplace productivity, which in the United States reaches $5.8 billion each year. “In today’s world, can we afford not to increase investment in eliminating gender discrimination when it has the potential to yield such high returns?”

According to Bachelet, “UN Women’s good fortune is that it comes into being at a time when countries and businesses are asking this question, and rethinking their investment strategies (...) “Our challenge now is to meet the rising demands and expectations.”  

She also underescored that underdevelopment is no excuse for failing to promote gender empowerment. “Every country in the world, at whatever level of development, has access to the technical expertise and support needed to advance gender equality in line with their national priorities.”