Human Rights

Putting Rights into Practice: Promoting Gender Equality

Gender equality and women’s empowerment are at the heart of the ICPD vision. The Programme of Action’s sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights goals are strongly linked to and mutually reinforce its goals for women’s empowerment and gender equality. The ICPD also called on countries to “take full measures” to eliminate exploitation, abuse, harassment and violence against women, adolescents and children (para. 4.9). And it called on men to take shared responsibility for parenting, valuing children of both sexes equally, educating them and preventing violence against them. It also urged actions to ensure that men actively participate with women in responsible behaviour in sexual and reproductive matters (para. 4.27).

Nevertheless, gender-based discrimination and violence are pervasive, undermining women’s opportunities and denying them the ability to fully exercise their fundamental human rights and to play a powerful role in sustainable development and poverty eradication. Millennium Development Goal 3 is to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. It has been widely established that gender equality is fundamental to achieving the other seven goals as well.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, also known as the Women’s Bill of Rights, declares that countries should:

In spite of international human rights standards, however, women in many countries, by law or custom, still lack the ability to:

UNFPA in action

Reducing disparities in education is a first step to achieving gender equality. UNFPA programmes in every region promote the right to education, especially for girls. Towards this end, UNFPA is part of an interagency global initiative, Meeting the Development and Participation Rights of Adolescent Girls, that is fostering gender equity through education projects in 12 countries.

Because economic privation often keeps women from exercising their full human rights, UNFPA also supports projects that empower women economically, such as those in Jordan, the Philippines and Viet Nam. Skills training and micro-credit opportunities are key interventions in this area. Gender-sensitive data collection can highlight economic disparities and serve as a basis for addressing them.

Eradicating gender-based discrimination requires the involvement of women in decision-making at all levels. For this reason, and because participation is key to the human rights approach, the political participation of women is a strategic priority for UNFPA. The Fund advocates for women’s political participation and gives special attention to the strengthening of national machineries for women’s advancement through governments and NGOs. UNFPA promotes legal and policy reforms in numerous countries to reduce inequality. In Cape Verde, Guatemala and Malaysia the Fund supports gender-responsive budgeting to encourage greater accountability to commitments made to women.

UNFPA also supports projects that advance each of the 12 critical areas for women as outlined at the 1995 Fourth World Conference of Women in Beijing.

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