December 15, 2006
Gender Equity and Child Well-Being Are Interrelated
UNICEF’s 2007 State of the World’s Children Report focuses on the interrelated issues of gender equity for women and the well-being of their children. Entitled “Women and Children: The Double Dividend of Gender Equality,” the report was officially released by UNICEF officials December 11 in New York, N.Y., on the date of the organization’s 60th anniversary of serving the world’s children. As part of a multi-location announcement, UNICEF representatives joined with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health faculty, staff and students on December 12, 2006 to discuss the report.
Robert Gass, UNICEF project officer, HIV/AIDS Care & Treatment, explained that the 2007 report highlights the need for women’s equality. He said, “Gender equality and well-being of children go hand and hand; gender equality furthers the cause of childhood health.”
Women face gender discrimination over their entire life cycle, Gass said. It starts pre-delivery with feticide and infanticide, then moves through the life cycle as women have less access to schools and education; are subject to female genital mutilation; child marriage; premature parenthood and maternal mortality; sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking; HIV/AIDS; and age discrimination.
Gass noted that
- • 36 percent of women aged 20-24 are married before age 18
- • girls under 15 are 5 times more likely to die during child birth
- • the rate of mortality drops by half for children under age five whose mothers have a primary school education
- • in households where women do not help make decisions jointly with their husbands, children are more malnourished
- • women work more, but earn less
- • women are given less decision-making duties at work
- • women are locked out of elected government positions
The report recommends that gender equality can be maximized by abolishing school fees so that education is available to all; passing legislation to allow women legal protection and inheritance of land and resources when their husbands or fathers pass away; creating legislative quotas; engaging men and boys to involve women as equals; and improving gender equity research to allow for more evidence-based solutions to be introduced from the national to community-based level.
Andrea Ruff, MD, MPH, assistant professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of International Health, explained that annually, 10.6 million children die from diseases and disorders that have been around for many years, such as malaria, pneumonia, injuries, measles, HIV/AIDS and malnutrition.
She said, “We do have the means to make things better. We can have a tremendous impact with existing treatments, antibiotics and vaccinations.” Even with non-existent health infrastructures, Ruff said, the public health community knows enough to act.
Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH, dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health, said that the UNICEF report echoes some of the work being done by faculty and students at the School.
Christine Sarbanes, director of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, Mid-Atlantic Region, said that protecting children is an enormous challenge, but that it can be done. She explained that part of UNICEF’s mission is to tell young people in the U.S. about the problems faced by children in other countries. Sarbanes noted that Bloomberg School students have been visiting local public schools to discuss their experiences in schools outside the U.S.firstname.lastname@example.org.