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21.11.2008 General News

World Women's Report 2008/2009 launched


The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) which seeks to address critical issues affecting women was launched in Accra on Thursday.

The Biennial Progress of the World's Women Report 2008/2009 has the sub-title “Who Answers to Women? Gender and Accountability.”

It said stronger accountability mechanisms for tracking progress on gender equality were needed to meet national and international commitments to women's rights.

"Too often, national planning commitments and international development and security efforts fail to reduce the poverty level of ordinary women or to visibly address problems they face such as gender-based violence,” it said, adding that there was the need to empower women to hold leaders accountable for gender promises.

It said accountability mechanisms worked for women when they could hold decision-makers to account to deliver on promises to promote women's rights and to take corrective actions when women's rights were abused.

The 152-page report also revealed that public service delivery that responded to women's needs was the litmus test of government accountability and that women continued to face barriers to health, education and agricultural support services.

“They are denied access because health clinics and schools are often too distant or costly, agricultural services are geared towards male farmers, and government services routinely target employed, literate or propertied men," it added.

Dr Anne Marie Goetz, lead author and Chief Advisor, Governance, Peace and Security, said one form of accountability failure was corruption and women's experiences were different from those of men.

She said. in developed countries, 30 per cent more women than men perceived high levels of corruption in the education system, and a gendered difference in perceptions of corruption were seen in most other parts of the world as well.

Dr Goetz said women might also experience corruption differently, for instance when sexual extortion was one of the forms in which informal payments were extracted.

On women in politics, she said even though in the last decade women parliamentarians at the national level had increased by eight per cent to a global average of 18.4 per cent, developing countries would still not reach the “parity zone” of 40-60 per cent until 2045.

"Quotas or other special measures are effective in ensuring progress: women hold an average of 19.3 per cent of parliamentary seats in countries that applied some form of electoral quota, compared to 14.7 per cent in countries with no quotas," she added.

Commenting on women's access to justice, she said real improvement in women's access to justice needed gender-based changes in law enforcement and informal justice institutions.

"For example the presence of an all-female women contingent in Liberia is encouraging women to engage with the police. Similar examples can be found in other post-conflict contexts, such as East Timor, Rwanda and Kosovo.”

Mr Daouda Toure, UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative in Ghana, said the success of the report would depend largely on how its content was disseminated and urged government and civil society organisations to be committed to women's accountability and justice.

Dr Dzodzi Tsikata, Research Fellow, Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research, University of Ghana, said it was unfortunate that the Ghanaian media was not promoting women's accountability and justice.

She therefore urged the media to centre newspaper publications and debates on issues that were of interest to the public.

Dr Tsikata said report, apart from assisting women activists in finding new ways of delivering social services, was also a call to action by governments to pay attention to women's freedom by trying to enlarge the space around which women operated.

Professor Takyiwaa Manuh, Director, Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Legon, said Africa governments signed a lot of documents, most of which sought to give lots of promises to women, but unfortunately most of these promises do not materialise.

Ms Afua Ansre, National Programme Coordinator, UNIFEM Ghana, said the report was timely in the context of the focus on building national capacity within the aid effectiveness agenda.

The report provided an assessment of each of the Millennium Development Goals from a gender perspective and focused on five key areas where urgent action was required to strengthen accountability to women - politics and governance; access to public services; economic opportunities; justice, and the distribution of international assistance for development and security.