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01 November 2017
UNFPA Worlds Apart Report

Mr. Arthur Erken, Director of UNFPA, Division of Communication and Strategic Partnerships, and Editor in Chief of UNFPA's new report, "Worlds Apart: Reproductive Health and Rights In An Age of Inequality,"  presented the findings and his experience in meetings with leaders and local citizens around the world, emphasizing the gains made in countries such as India, Vietnam, Indonesia Rwanda, Lesotho and Jordan. In all of the successful cases of lowering maternal and infant death, he cited and described the narrowing of the gaps in wages for women, increase in the levels of education for women and girls, and the reduction or discrimination against women in the workplace. Concurrent with these social, educational and economic changes, come the opportunities for more clinical heath support for both prenatal care and examinations during pregnancy, qualified and experienced birth attendants, and counseling and access to contraceptive planning and practices. In turn the increased adoption of family planning practices, results in fewer children, more opportunity for women to then participate in the economy with greater training and work skills, increases in household income, and then better overall family health for all members of the family. He stressed the chain and linkages between improved maternal and child health and the key sustainable development goals adopted by the UN in 2015 and building on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals accomplished from 2000 to 2105, particularly increased levels of Girls education primary and secondary schools, the increases in policies for women to access paid opportunities in the work place, and the growing recognition by countries around the world that economies grow. With the greater opportunity and participation of women in economic endeavors beyond the traditional unpaid agricultural labor, an unequal burden is often placed on women, who also have large numbers of children born out of the absence of both education and availability of reproductive heath services.  

This new 2017 UNFPA report traces and illustrates with data the intersection of inequality in women's health and rights and economic inequality in some 173 countries over the past 10 to 15 years. It illustrates in stark contrasts by country  where income gaps widened, gender gaps increased, and women's and childrens' reproductive and sustainable health stagnated, when women were not afforded access to education, work opportunities with fair wages, and availability of modern contraceptives, and antenatal visits during pregnancies. Most basic to these needs is to enable women and their families to escape from extreme poverty, and the opportunity to in fact build healthy economies is directly related to the full and equal participation of women in those economies.

UNFPA plays an active roles in helping countries to understand these relationships, to help deliver affordable village level clinical care for reproductive health, and to foster collaboration among sectors and agencies within countries to bridge these practices with education, health, economic planning. The Worlds Apart Report sets forth 10 key actions to accomplish the global agenda for sound reproductive health and women's rights. 

Most importantyly, Mr. Erkin emphasized that all of the practices and approached advocated in the Report are within reach by many countries with determination of country leaders.
All in all, this comprehensive and substantive report is demonstrating the inter linkages of women' rights and material and reproductive health status in and among the SDG's, very clear and insightful. The dramatic continuing gaps and unfulfilled promises in the majority of countries, and the growing or stagnating -gaps in equality of economic, contraceptive access, and unchanged gaps in opportunity between genders is sad and troublesome. Only three countries in the world have more than 50% of women in managerially positions. That is less than 2% of countries. 

The clear summary set of steps for action is very helpful, yet need high level pronouncement and commitments from world leaders to accomplish change. The influence in the report about  media and communication impact is notable and promising.  This agenda cannot be an afterthought or down the list. It needs to be at the top of the list for all agencies working on the SDG's and development. 

The effort to achieve educational, economic, legal and service access must be stepped up significantly. The SDG's won't in large part be achieved if we don't address the gender gap for economic participation, and the barriers to that from poor education, poor health, poor nutrition, poor wages, unavailable reproductve health services, and the penalties to women who do work at low wages, and with no offset from double duty care delivery  at home, and male persistence of not recognizing these rights and of women and young girls. 
We now  have this very convincing up to date data, but frankly the underlying factors and issues and findings have been well laid and codified in 1984, and restated in the CSW annual meetings for now 25 to 35 years. 

We must accelerate the removal of barriers and make faster progress.
Thank you all so much at UNFPA for this report and to Karen as well for her help that evening of the report launching.