Placing women's issues on front burner will aid child development
- Manickchand says as State of the World's Children report launched
Stabroek News
January 23, 2007

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Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Priya Manickchand said women and issues affecting them must be placed on the front-burner if matters such as gender equality, and child development and survival are to be addressed effectively.

Her comment came at the launch of UNICEF's State of the World's Children 2007 report yesterday which emphasises that an investment in women's rights also means advancement in children's rights.

Under the theme, "Women and Children - the Double Dividend of Gender Equality" the report examines the discrimination and disempowerment women face throughout their lives and outlines what must be done to eliminate discrimination and empower women and girls.

Manickchand stressed that it is important to understand the link between women and children if progress is going to be made. She said what happens after a workshop is completed and whether certain things are being actively implemented is also crucial.

"It makes no sense to join the rest of the world in celebrating International Women's Day or the other days set aside for children and ending domestic violence among others when we are not working actively towards the goals we set," Manickchand said.

The minister said she has examined the work being done within her ministry and feels much more has to be done though there are achievements to be proud of. In addition, she said, efforts need to be scaled up at every level so that everyone is on the same page.

She said UNICEF's report is excellent and she is particularly pleased that it makes the link between women empowerment and children advancement. Manickchand said too that it addresses equality in the household which "is an important area when addressing gender equality".

In the report UNICEF said a woman's empowerment within the household increases the likelihood that her children, particularly girls, will attend school and noted that one of its surveys of selected countries across the developing world found that, on average, children with uneducated mothers are at least twice as likely to be out of school than children whose mothers attended primary school.

Additionally, the report said that in families in which women are key decision-makers, the proportion of resources devoted to children is far greater than in those which women have a less decisive role, adding that this is because women generally place a higher premium than men on welfare-related goals and are more likely to use their influence and the resources they control to promote the needs of children in particular and of that family in general.

UNICEF's representative to Guyana, Johannes Wedeing said gender equality furthers the cause of child survival and development. He said that because women are the primary caregivers for children their well-being is directly connected to that of their offspring.

According to him, the State of the World's Children report provides a road map for maximizing gender equality through many key areas including education, financing and legislative quotas. He said recent cases of high profile violence against children that ranged from rape to murder remind us how urgent it is to put and end to the violence.

"We owe it to the memory of children, such as the nine-year-old child whose body was found last week bearing evidence of rape and strangulation, to embark upon a sustained campaign against all forms of violence under which children suffer."

Wedeing said that with concerted efforts true progress can be achieved and ultimately produce a double dividend of advancing the rights of both women and children.

Chairperson of the National Commission on Women Magda Pollard briefly remarked that it is important for there to be advocacy at the parliamentary level as regards issues affecting women.

Her point is addressed in the report which said that women's involvement in governing bodies at the national and local levels leads to policies and legislation that are focused on women, children and families. It further states women's influence is not just being felt in stronger legislation for women and children; women are also helping decision-making bodies become more democratic and gender-sensitive.

First Lady Varshnie Jagdeo also briefly stated that a concerted effort is needed before any real progress is made.

She said that violence in the home and in schools must first end.