UNITED NATIONS, New York—Six decades after the United Nations founders proclaimed their commitment to peace, human rights and the equality of men and women, “it is clearer than ever before that human rights must be at the center of efforts to reduce poverty, discrimination and conflict,” said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. [see statement]
In her message on World Population Day, 11 July, Ms. Obaid underlined the benefits of gender equality, including “a higher quality of life for individual women and girls, and stronger families, communities and countries.” Today, she added, “let us recommit ourselves to this vision of a better world. Let us commit ourselves to equality, justice and human rights for all.”
The high costs of inequality, including high rates of maternal deaths and disability, “can be measured by broken bodies, shattered dreams and crushed spirits,” said Ms. Obaid. “Poor sexual and reproductive health is a leading cause of death and illness for women in the developing world,” she added, noting that poverty and inequality fuel the acceleration of HIV infection, since “women lack the power to negotiate their personal safety.”
The highest cost of gender discrimination, said Ms. Obaid, “is widespread violence against women and girls, which remains one of the most pervasive and shameful human rights violations, compromising the personal security, liberty, dignity and well-being of millions of women and children worldwide.”
Describing equality as an end in itself and a cornerstone of development, Ms. Obaid urged “leaders at every level to speak about the great gains that equal rights offer the entire human family and to take concrete and urgent action to make these rights a reality.”
In a separate message, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan described gender equality as “a human right that benefits everyone.” Equality, he added, “goes hand-in-hand with investments in education, economic opportunity and reproductive health – together a powerful force for progress in poverty reduction and development.”
Since 1989, UNFPA and its national partners have been marking World Population Day with a variety of worldwide activities and events focusing on the importance of population and development issues, particularly for overall development plans.
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.
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