(ArmInfo) - Elimination of gender discrimination and empowering women will have a profound and positive impact on the survival and well-being of children, according to a new UNICEF report.
The State of the World's Children report released today, on occasion of UNICEF's 60th anniversary, argues that gender equality produces the double dividend of benefiting both women and children and argues that gender equality is pivotal to the health and development of communities, families and nations, reports Trend.
"When women are educated, empowered and involved in the decisions that shape their lives, their children are better educated, their health and nutrition improves, family income rises, civil society is more likely to flourish, " UNICEF Representative, Sheldon Yett said in his remarks at the launch of the State of the World's Children 2007 organized as part of a campaign against gender violence that kicked off in Armenia on 25 November.
Although Armenia has shown good progress in ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women, there are still some areas where concerted efforts are required to eliminate discrimination and disparity.
In particular, women continue to be under-represented in Armenia's political life and in senior positions in central and local government. Out of 131 members of the Armenian Parliament, only seven are women. At the cabinet level, only one minister out of seventeen is a woman, and only three deputy ministers are women out of a total of fifty six. Involving women in the early stages of policy formation helps ensure the programmes are designed with the needs of women and children in mind.
In most branches of Armenia's economy, women are often paid lower wages than their male colleagues, while the unemployment rate among women is higher than among men. Income in the hands of women can reap benefits for children, and gender gaps in earnings can decrease or limit the resources available to meet children's rights, such as health care, adequate nutrition and education.
In some ethnic minority communities, up to 20% of girls do not complete basic education. "Missing out on basic school education deprives a girl of the opportunity to develop to her full potential," Sheldon Yett stressed. "Children born to mothers who have no or insufficient education are less likely to survive and develop to their full potential than those born to educated mothers."
In recent years violence against women has also become a subject of great concern in the country "Unfortunately many cases of violence against women, particularly, domestic violence go unreported and there is no reliable data on how many women have been victimized," UNICEF Representative said, adding that "the present campaign against gender violence is not only called to surface various forms of discrimination that women in Armenia are facing, but also urges immediate actions to improve the status of women in various spheres of life."
The achievement of the Millennium Development Goal 3 - promoting gender equality and empowering women - will also contribute to the achieving all other goals, from reducing poverty and hunger to saving children's lives, improving maternal health, ensuring quality secondary education, combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases, and ensuring environmental sustainability.
"Women's equal rights and influence in the key decisions that shape their lives must be enhanced in three distinct arenas: the household, the workplace and the political sphere. A change for the better in any one of these realms influences women's equality in the others, and has a profound and positive impact on children's well-being and development," UNICEF Representative said.