UNFPAState of World Population 2004
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HOME: STATE OF WORLD POPULATION 2004: Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment
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Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment

Global Survey Results
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Challenges: Filling the Half-empty Glass

Global Survey Results

The 2003 UNFPA global survey provided a useful framework for assessing what has been done in the area of gender equality and women’s empowerment. It covered five sets of measures: (i) to protect girls’ and women’s rights and promote empowerment; (ii) to address gender-based violence especially against girls and women; (iii) to improve access to primary and secondary education and address gender disparities in education; (iv) to instil attitudes favouring gender equality and support for women’s rights and empowerment in boys and men; and (v) to promote male responsibility for their own and their partners’ reproductive health.

PROMOTING GENDER EQUALITY. While more than half of the 151 responding developing countries had adopted national legislation, ratified UN conventions and established national commissions for women, similar progress was not made in formulating policies and putting programmes into place. Only one third of the countries had taken such action. Even fewer (only 13 countries) had developed advocacy programmes for gender equality.

MEASURES TO EMPOWER WOMEN. About half the countries had developed plans and strategies for women and to provide them with economic opportunities, but only 28 countries had increased women’s political participation and just 16 had programmes to sensitize government officials.

GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE. The survey found that 91 countries had laws in place to counter and punish gender-based violence, but only 21 actually enforced these laws. Only 34 had trained service providers or government officials about gender-based violence, and only 33 had set up monitoring mechanisms.


Gender-based violence is a worldwide problem that, studies show, may affect one out of three women. Abuses ranging from verbal abuse to rape to such traditional practices as female genital cutting are physically and psychologically damaging—and are human rights violations. Many victims are never seen by a medical professional to address their abuse, making assisting them a challenge.

As part of its work to counter genderbased violence, UNFPA has supported training of medical professionals, to make them more sensitive towards women who may have experienced violence and to meet their health needs. Pilot interventions have been tested in 10 countries—Cape Verde, Ecuador, Guatemala, Lebanon, Lithuania, Mozambique, Nepal, Romania, Russia and Sri Lanka.

Following consultations with health providers and clients, all women were screened for abuse in some pilot projects. Possible victims have been offered legal, medical and psychological support, and medical referrals when necessary. Some of the pilots have been undertaken with local authorities and hospitals, others work with NGO networks. Attention has been paid to involving communities, and to creating support networks for gender-based violence victims that include both police and healthcare providers, along with counselling services.

UNFPA has also held workshops for health providers on recognizing the effects of gender-based violence on women’s health, and on how to detect and prevent abuse and assist victims. These have stressed the need for confidentiality and monitoring.

An evaluation found the pilots successful and worthy of continued support. Recommendations include a call for governments to recognize gender-based violence as a public health concern.

Based on this experience UNFPA has produced a manual, A Practical Approach to Gender-based Violence, which has been translated into seven languages. See Sources

ACCESS TO EDUCATION. Only 42 countries were able to increase public spending on schools, and only 28 provided incentives for poor families to send children to school. In addition, only 13 countries had incorporated gender sensitization into curricula, and only 16 had increased the number of girls’ secondary schools.

MALE ATTITUDES AND RESPONSIBILITY. Only 20 countries reported developing youth and adolescent reproductive health education plans and programmes. Less than half the reporting countries had in place programmes to educate men about their own and their partners’ reproductive health.

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