Significant gains have been made to reduce maternal and child deaths as well as increase family planning access, over the past two decades. However, UNFPA warns that the progress has not reached all women. From the Guardian:
The number of women dying in pregnancy or childbirth has dropped by almost half, and total global fertility rates have fallen by nearly a quarter. But access to health services remains patchy, particularly in rural areas of Africa, Latin America and parts of Asia, and sex discrimination remains deeply entrenched.
“A belief in, and commitment to, gender equality is not universal, and gender-based discrimination and violence continue to plague most societies,” says a report by the U N population fund, the UNFPA, which reviewed progress against commitments made at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994.
The wide-ranging study, which examines progress in more than 170 countries that signed up to the Cairo programme of action, found that people with disabilities, those from indigenous groups, and those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender have also faced persistent discrimination.
It says governments had talked the language of gender equality by introducing laws to ensure women’s rights were protected, but had been selective about their implementation.
One in three women has experienced physical and/or sexual abuse, and in some places men openly admit they have raped and face no consequences. In no country are women equal to men in political or economic power, it says.
“While the core message of the ICPD was the right of all persons to development, the rise of the global middle class has been shadowed by persistent inequalities both within and between countries. While we have made important gains in health and longevity, these gains are neither equally shared, nor accessible for many,” says the report.
The outcome of the ICPD in 1994 was considered groundbreaking. It was the first time member states agreed that equal rights and universal access to sexual and reproductive health services were essential for sustainable development.
Discussions about population control moved from slowing growth rates through family planning policies to look instead at ways to improve the lives of women and girls more broadly, emphasising their social and economic empowerment, women’s right to control their bodies and their fertility through access a range of modern contraceptive methods, along with universal access to education for girls.
The outcome document contained more than 200 recommendations, with a deadline of 2015. It sought to address the environmental impact of population growth and emphasised the elimination of all forms of violence against women, the reduction of maternal mortality rates, and an end to sex discrimination. It also touched on migrants’ rights to services and the support of indigenous groups.