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UN report highlights link between reproductive health, global inequality
Investing in sexual and reproductive health services is key to global development and prosperity.
That is the message the executive director of the United Nations Population Fund is bringing to Canada as she meets with International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau on Wednesday.
Dr. Natalia Kanem and Bibeau will discuss the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNPF) latest major report, titled Worlds Apart, which looks at inequality and the state of reproductive rights around the globe.
The report, released in October, warns that failing to protect the rights of the poorest women around the world “could undermine peace and world’s development goals.”
Millions of women lack the ability to access sexual health services and make their own decisions about how many children they will have and when they will have them. That prevents girls and women from getting a proper education and seeking jobs outside the home, which contributes to financial inequality in many countries, the report says.
“Even in countries that are better off, there is inequality,” Dr. Kanem told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday. “The gap between the rich and the poor is growing.”
Dr. Kanem said the Worlds Apart report is “pathbreaking” because it shows a direct link between women’s reproductive health and global development. She commended Canada for contributing to global humanitarian efforts that focus on the empowerment of girls and women, and said countries like Canada need to continue to invest in reproductive health rights, and especially in the education of young girls.
“Information can be life-saving for a young girl. Many girls get pregnant without having a clue.”
The UNPF report makes a number of recommendations “for a more equal world.” They include abolishing discriminatory laws that prevent girls and women from accessing sexual health services, bolstering childcare options so that women can enter the workforce, and eliminating girls’ obstacles to getting a secondary and higher education.
Globally, women earn 77 per cent of what men earn, while in Canada, women earn 87 per cent of what men earn, according to the report.
“Inequality remains a barrier to women and girls accessing comprehensive sexuality education, reproductive health services, and family planning and contraceptives” Bibeau said in a news release ahead of Wednesday’s meeting.
“Partners like the UNFPA continue to play a vital role in removing barriers and addressing the gap while providing critical sexual and reproductive health services.”