As the world observes the International Day of the Girl Child, the United Nations, civil society and private businesses appear increasingly devoted to harnessing new technology to empower women and girls. The recent Social Good Summit, for instance, which coincided with the 68th General Assembly, convened global leaders to discuss these very uses of technology, which can aid development and help bring about a more equitable world for all.
Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) celebrated its first anniversary in July. The group, which came out of last year’s London Summit on Family Planning that was hosted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the government of the United Kingdom, aims to reach every woman in the world who does not want to be pregnant but does not currently use family planning methods. More specifically, FP2020 was launched to ensure that commitment-makers at the summit delivered on their pledges to guarantee that an additional 120 million women gain access to family planning services and contraceptives by 2020.
Today, the United Nations is presenting the Population Award to two honorees responsible for exemplary progress in population studies and public health. One organization being honored is The International Islamic Centre for Population Studies and Research (IICPSR), a leading authority on population issues at Al-Azhar University in Egypt. Since it was founded in 1975, the centre has focused extensively on global public health issues such as the elimination of female genital mutilation (FGM/C).
The United Nations Population Award is given annually to commend organizations and individuals for exceptional contributions to population studies and the public health field. Past winners include Bill and Melinda Gates and Dame Billie Antoinette Miller, former Barbados Senior Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. This year’s recipients, who are being honored this week at the UN, are Dr. Jotham Musinguzi, a Ugandan physician, and The International Islamic Centre for Population Studies and Research, an organ of the Al-Azhar University in Egypt.
Hardly a sound disturbs the hot afternoon in Dhuleil, a desert village northeast of the Jordanian city of Zarqa. The only way to escape from the June sun is to duck inside one of the flat-roofed concrete houses dotting the monochrome landscape. One of those houses is home to 45-year-old Hibatullah and her family. They left their hometown of Dera'a, along the Syrian-Jordanian border, and arrived in Jordan in mid-March, first transiting through the main refugee camp, Za'atari.
United Nations officials, civil society groups and worldwide media coverage hailed last month’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) for taking a significant step forward in the campaign to end gender-based violence. The outcome document from the 57th CSW—supported by UN Women—included substantial agreements regarding the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment, including the need to guarantee women’s reproductive rights and access to health services.
While the impact of HIV/AIDS is highly publicized, what often receives less attention is the unequal effect this disease has on women. In 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 30.7 million adults were living with HIV globally. Of those, approximately half were women. Yet that percentage remains far higher in certain regions.
Last October, the world was shocked and horrified when Taliban gunmen attacked a 15-year-old Pakistani girl whose only offense was demanding an education. After Malala Yousafzai was shot in the back of the head as she was making her way home from school, the world’s attention became focused on the harsh realities for girls in parts of Pakistan and elsewhere, where attending school is seen as a threat. While most girls around the world have less to overcome in gaining access to an education, major gender barriers persist.
During International Women’s Day, the United Nations focuses on fulfilling promises regarding the maternal health, equality, empowerment, education, and safety of women worldwide. There is perhaps no one better suited to help the UN sharpen this focus than U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice.
One of the focuses of this year’s International Women’s Day, as well as the theme Commission on the Status of Women, is ending violence against women and girls, and with good reason. Last fall, the point-blank shooting of a Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, while she was carpooling home from school riveted the world, drawing attention to the plight of women and girls in Central Asia. But a few months later, we were reminded that gender-based violence is hardly relegated to one particular country.