UNITED NATIONS — Investing in women and girls during the global financial crisis will help set the stage for economic recovery and reduce inequality and poverty, according to Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. “There is no smarter investment in troubled times,” added Ms. Obaid in her statement for World Population Day, which falls on Saturday, 11 July.
Women and girls were the majority of the world’s poor, even before the current financial crisis, said Ms. Obaid. “Now, they are falling deeper into poverty and face increased health risks, especially if they are pregnant.” For World Population Day, she added, “I call on all leaders to make the health and rights of women a political and development priority.”
In developing countries, women’s health has critical economic importance. Women are more than half the agricultural labour force. They grow 80 per cent of staple crops in Africa, and in South-east Asia, 90 per cent of rice growers are women.
Investing in reproductive health is especially cost-effective, noted Ms. Obaid, adding, as an example, “an investment in contraceptive services can be recouped four times over—and sometimes dramatically more over the long term—by reducing the need for public spending on health, education and other social services.”
In a separate statement, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on decision-makers to “protect women’s ability to earn income, keep their daughters in school, and obtain reproductive health information and services, including voluntary family planning.
“Together,” added Mr. Ban, “let us advance the rights of women and girls, and empower them as highly productive members of society capable of contributing to economic recovery and growth. There can be no better investment on this day or any other.”
Since 1990, governments and their national partners have been marking World Population Day with a variety of activities and events focusing on the importance of population to overall development strategies. This year’s 20th anniversary of the Day coincides with the 40th anniversary of UNFPA and the 15th anniversary of the historic International Conference on Population and Development that guides UNFPA’s work.
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