WOMENAID INTERNATIONAL

INVESTING IN WOMEN

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

Sustainable development can only be achieved with full and equal participation of women, when population, environmental and development linkage are adequately translated into policies and programmes, and when social sectors are given equal priority with economic growth. 

These recommendations are addressed mainly to governments.  However, international organisations and non-governmental organisations also have a wide responsibility in this area. 

1. Documenting and  women's vital contribution to development 
There is still a shortage of vital quantitative and qualitative information on women.  National data collection systems do not yet accurately document women's contribution to development.  

All countries should: 

  • ensure that national statistics, on employment, mortality, morbidity, etc., are disaggregated by sex; 

  • investigate and quantify women's unpaid work and their work in the informal sector; 

  • assign an economic value to women's unpaid work; 

  • ensure timely and regular availability of socio-economic indicators on women; 

  • provide the widest possible audience with accurate and full information on women's productive and reproductive responsibilities. 

2.  Increasing the  productivity of women and lessening the double burden on women 
While women contribute two thirds of the hours worked in the world, they only earn about one tenth of the world's income and own only about 1 per cent of world's property.  Women's working conditions are more difficult than those of men, particularly because women's access to production resources is restricted.   

All countries should: 

  • repeal all laws and practices preventing or restricting women from owning and administering productive resources; 

  • recognise that women's access to technology and training has to be guaranteed in all aspects of the economy, not only in those occupations and tasks traditionally perceived as women's domain; 

  • ensure that women have access to credit without collateral and improve access to markets in agricultural and informal sector; 

  • establish and enforce laws of equal pay for work of equal value; 

  • measures to relieve women's workload--including improved domestic technology and better family planning services, should be a priority; 

  • all women should have access to safe water and fuel supply in or with unreasonable distance of their homes; 

  • child care should be a standard feature of workplaces on the same basis as other facilities; 

  • child care and maternity leave should be on the same footing as health insurance and sick leave. 

3.  Providing family planning 
Giving women the ability to choose when and whether to have children has powerful positive effects on their health, on the health of their children, and on their ability to involve themselves in the world outside the confines of the household.  Providing family planning services may be one of the best ways of investing in women.  It also has a profound effect on population growth.   

Countries should: 

  • provide high quality services and a wide variety of family planning methods so that women can choose the best one that best suits their needs; 

  • provide appropriate and special family planning information and services for men, teenagers, unmarried and newly married women, people who tend to be excluded from services are usually combined with maternal and child health care; 

  • provide full information about possible side effects of family planning so that women can make an informed choice; 

  • ensure that women are consulted and involved at every level in the organisation of family planning services, so that services are provided by appropriate staff in appropriate places at appropriate times; 

  • ensure that prevention and treatment of infertility is an effective part of MCH/FP services; 

  • include IEC and counselling about AIDS as an integral part of family planning services and promote the use of condoms in AIDS prevention; 

  • integrate family planning into mother and child health care services and other sectoral activities; 

  • improve the quality of contraceptive care and ensure that services are user-friendly and client-oriented. 

4.  Improving the health of women 
The most dangerous time for both mother and her baby are usually the weeks surrounding birth.  High infant death rates have serious effects on women's sense of security, and dangerous labour, if it does not result in a mother's death can cause much long-term suffering and disability.   

Countries should: 

  • train traditional birth attendants in hygiene; in promoting the benefits of birth spacing; in ensuring "at risk" births take place in a clinic setting; 

  • concentrate interventions particularly on women who have lost two babies; provide supplementary food for malnourished mothers--especially young teenage mothers--to help reduce the incidence of low-birth-weight babies to fewer than 10 percent of live births by the year 2000; 

  • monitor nutrition of pre-school children--with separate norms for boys and girls and ensure that at least 90 per cent of children have a weight for age corresponding to international reference norms; 

  • educate parents about the need to care for their daughters equally with their sons; 

  • train women to assume supervisory and decision-making roles in the health sector. 

5.  Expanding education 
Educating girls gives them some of the basic skills and confidence to begin taking control of their lives, and opens up opportunities for them in the world outside the home.  Education is perhaps the strongest variable affecting the status of women.  

Countries should: 

  • expand girls' enrolment in school and their retention in the school system by active recruitment;   

  • counselling of drop-outs and reducing school fees if necessary; 

  • halt the practice of expelling pregnant teenagers from school and encourage them continue their education before and after the birth; 

  • include sex education, family planning and family responsibility in school curricula for children before they reach the age of first sexual experience; 

  • encourage both girls and boys to study the whole range of subjects; 

  • establish a framework of appropriate policies and programmes to bring about appropriate attitudinal and behavioural changes among both men and women and men. 

6.   Equality of opportunity 
Despite the Decade for Woman and the recommendations of International Conferences of 1975 and 1985, many declaration and much rhetoric, women in many parts of the world and in many communities have still not reached equality in status with men.  In many ways this is a reflection of lack of understanding of the issues and the permissiveness of deep-seated attitudes and belief systems.  

There is an urgent need to change the attitudes of decision-makers and leaders in favour of equality of status for women, and for ensuring commitment to this cause at the highest levels of society.  Commitment will be expressed by high visibility for issues of women and development, followed by formulation of a policy and strategy on women and development, with adequate resources for its implementation.  Women must be an integral part of the process of developing such a policy and strategy.  A legal and attitudinal framework which provides a basis for equality of status is essential.   

All countries should: 

  • ratify and implement the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against women; 

  • review the legal system to remove barriers to women's full participation in society and the family on an equal basis with men, and eliminate the legal basis for discrimination; 

  • educate both men and women at all levels, starting in the school system, to accept the principle that women and men are equal in value and have equal rights in society and the family; 

  • promote women's access to decision-making and leadership positions in government and private sector and ensure women's involvement in design and implementation of programmes affecting women. 

7. Goals for the year 2000 
Specific goals are needed to ensure progress in implementing these recommendations.   

UNFPA has proposed that governments should: 

  • increase international assistance for family planning programmes from $US0.5 billion to $US 2.5 billion per year until the year 2000; 

  • make family planning a development priority, ranked alongside major economic investments, and with an allocation of not less than one per cent of GNP in the countries concerned; 

  • increase contraceptive prevalence in developing countries so as to reach at least 56 per cent of women of reproductive age by the year 2000 in view of the considerable unmet needs in family planning, thereby expending the currently estimated 326 million user couples to 535 million user couples; 

  • ensure that no person lives more than one hour's walk away from a health facility providing basic health care and family planning and that no one lives more than two hours' travelling time from basic emergency facilities; 

  • ensure that all women pay at least one visit to a health care facility during pregnancy; 

  • reduce maternal mortality by at least 50 per cent by the year 2000 especially in those countries where such mortality is very high (higher than 100 maternal deaths per 1000,000 births); 

  • reduce infant mortality to 50 per 1000 live births by the year 2000--especially in those countries where infant mortality is high, 

  • expand girls' enrolment in primary school to at least 75 per cent by the year 2000.  In countries where girls' enrolment is particularly low, ensure that the ratio of girls to boys in primary school is at least 4:5 by the year 2000; 

  • expand girls' enrolment in secondary school to at least 60 per cent by the year 2000.  In countries where girls' enrolment is particularly low, ensure that the ratio of girls to boys in secondary school is at least 3:5 by the year 2000; 

  • combat women's illiteracy so that at least 70 percent are able to read and write by the year 2000. 

These goals cover not only population but also some of the specific concerns of many other agencies and organisations working in the field of development.  A co-operation and co-ordinated effort and committed leadership are essential to ensure their achievement. 

Source: UNFPA 

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