Pretoria – Today, we celebrate International Women’s Day – a global day to honour and celebrate the achievements of women and to remind us of the inequities that still need to be addressed. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) joins the international community to recognize the fact that there can be no real peace, social progress and full enjoyment of human rights, without active participation, equality and development of women.
UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osetimehin, states, “When girls enjoy equal access to education, and women, men and young people can claim their right to sexual and reproductive health, we come closer to equality. When women and couples can plan their families, and balance work and family life as they desire, we expand equal opportunity.” Despite the progress made in Africa, many challenges still remain.
South Africa has two significant events in 2011 that, applied with a gender lens, hold opportunities for women’s development: the 2011 National Census; and the 2011 Local Municipal elections. The 2011 Census needs to capture and report on the unpaid work that women do that contribute to the economic development of this country in order to underscore the importance of issues such as maternal mortality and women’s health. The local government elections hold an opportunity for women leadership at grassroots level to advocate for sexual and reproductive health service delivery at local level to ensure that women have access to comprehensive health services and education. “When girls are educated and healthy, and can avoid early marriage, unwanted pregnancy and HIV, they can contribute fully to society”, continues Dr. Osetimehin.
South Africa faces high levels of teenage pregnancy that require a concerted effort to provide sexual and reproductive health services to young girls at primary health care and community level. Recent reports of teenage pregnancy in Gauteng and Limpopo provinces require quick and decisive action.
“Achieving universal access to reproductive health and education for women by 2015 is a milestone we dare not miss. UNFPA remains committed to working with government and civil society towards achieving this goal,” asserts Mark Schreiner, UNFPA Deputy Representative, South Africa.
UNFPA joins partners worldwide in celebrating this important day to advance gender equality and dignity for all. We must continue to move with the belief that progress for women is progress for all.
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.
For more information: Nonhlanhla Zindela, UNFPA South Africa: firstname.lastname@example.org or 012 354 8402 or 082 576 1179.