The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has released its 2005 report, highlighting the critical link between achieving gender equality and eradicating poverty. Entitled The Promise of Equality: Gender Equity, Reproductive Health and the Millennium Development Goals, the report analyzes the current status of women and girls, particularly in developing areas, and suggests a “road map” of practical policies to improve the quality of life of women and girls, a necessary step to putting an end to poverty worldwide.
Speaking at the London launch of the report, UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Obaid declared, “We cannot make poverty history until we stop violence against women and girls. . . until women enjoy their full social, cultural, economic and political rights.” A central focus of the report is reproductive health and rights, which emphasizes the importance of available, reliable contraceptives, preventable dangers that occur during pregnancy and labor, and protection from sexually transmitted diseases. According to the UNFPA, reproductive health problems are responsible for the loss of “more than 250 million years of productive life” worldwide. The UNFPA contends that “failure to [invest in women and young people] may entrench poverty for generations to come.” As reported in the summer 2003 issue of Ms., global reproductive health care is under funded by $7 billion each year.
When women suffer reproductive health problems, said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) at the Washington, DC report launch, “they lose any chance for their creativity to contribute to their country’s progress.”
The UNFPA is voluntarily funded by 166 countries, but the US is not among them. For four years in a row, the Bush administration has withheld $34 million in funding for UNFPA allocated by Congress, money which would comprise 12.5 percent of the UNFPA’s annual budget. According to the UNFPA, this money would help prevent 2 million unwanted pregnancies, 4,700 maternal deaths and 77,000 infant deaths annually.