London — When women have access to the same rights and opportunities as men, they are more resilient to conflict and disaster and can lead reconstruction and renewal efforts in their societies, according to The State of World Population 2010, published today by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.
The report’s release coincides with the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council’s landmark resolution 1325, which aimed to put a stop to sexual violence against women and girls in armed conflict and to encourage greater participation by women in peacebuilding initiatives.
“When women and girls suffer deep discrimination, they are more vulnerable to the worst effects of disaster or war, including rape, and less likely to contribute to peacebuilding, which threatens long-term recovery,” said UNFPA’s Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid at the launch of the report.
Through the stories of individuals affected by conflict or catastrophe in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Liberia, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Timor-Leste and Uganda, the report shows how communities and civil society are healing old wounds and moving forward. However, more still needs to be done to ensure that women have access to services and have a voice in peace deals or reconstruction plans.
Security Council resolutions guide the international community’s response to conflict and establish the framework for actions to protect women and assure their participation in peacebuilding and reconciliation, “but they are not a substitute for grass-roots efforts to empower women and to build long-term resilience to crises of any sort,” Ms. Obaid wrote in the foreword to the report.
“Governments need to seize opportunities arising out of post-conflict recovery or emerging from natural disasters to increase the chances that countries are not just rebuilt, but built back better and renewed, with women and men on equal footing, with rights and opportunities for all and a foundation for development and security in the long run,” the report argues.
While conflict and disaster can worsen inequalities between men and women, Ms. Obaid said, “recovery from conflict and disaster also presents a unique opportunity—an opportunity to rectify inequalities, ensure equal protection under the law, and create space for positive change.”
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.
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