Our Perspective

      • Road to Rio: Women 'out of sight, out of mind’| Helen Clark

        11 Apr 2012

        image
        Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia and former UNDP staff, is the first elected female head of state in Africa as well as Nobel Peace Prize winner. Photo: UNDP

        Today, there are only eight women heads of state – representing slightly more than five per cent of the total.  This seems extraordinary in the second decade of the 21st century.  The global average of women holding parliamentary seats remains under twenty per cent, which is well below the thirty per cent target set in the Millennium Development Goals.  At the current rate of progress, that target will not be reached globally before 2025, and long beyond that in many countries.  That is too long for women and the world to wait. The proportions of women in national legislatures in the world’s regions range from roughly 22 per cent in the Americas and Europe (with the 42 per cent in Nordic countries pushing the average figures up) to 20.2 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa, 17.9 per cent in Asia, 14.9 per cent in the Pacific, and 10.7 per cent in the Arab States.  Five countries – all in the Gulf and the Pacific – have no women parliamentarians at all. Only sixteen per cent of ministers are women, and most often they are allocated portfolios like those for social welfare, women, and children.   When women are “out of sight, out ofRead More

      • Rural women key in fighting hunger | Helen Clark

        05 Mar 2012

        A few weeks ago I spoke with women farmers in Niger who are growing vegetables in some of the harshest climatic conditions on earth.  With severe drought a recurring problem in their country and across the Sahel, access to water for irrigation and to appropriate seeds, fertilisers, advisory services, and credit are all important for overcoming food shortages and malnutrition.  Rural women account for nearly half the agricultural labor force and are custodians of traditional knowledge about the land and their local environment.  Backed by small development investments, rural women can lead the way in building food and nutrition security for their families and communities, and thus in building resilience to future extreme weather events. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that if women farmers have equal access to fertilizers, seeds, and tools, the number of hungry people in our world could reduce by as many as 150 million, and the total agricultural output in developing countries could rise by up to four percent. In general, rural women in developing countries have the primary responsibility for cultivating crops, raising livestock, collecting water and firewood, and caring for families. Their family and domestic responsibilities are often heavy, leaving them with littleRead More

      • Rwanda: Gains made against poverty, a lesson for others | Auke Lootsma

        27 Feb 2012

        image
        Building Capacity in Rwanda. Photo: UNICEF/Giacomo Pirozzi

        Rwanda’s latest data release this month shows enormous improvement in the living standards of citizens over the past five years, and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - eight internationally-agreed goals aimed at reducing poverty and improving education, health, gender equality and environmental sustainability by 2015. Over the past half a decade, Rwanda has posted an average annual growth of real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 8.4 percent, driven mainly by higher productivity in the agricultural and industrial sectors. Critically, the poor have benefited from this growth spurt.  Rwandans have developed their own homegrown initiatives in order to tackle poverty at the most local level. The “one-cow-per-family” programme, just to name one, provides families with milk for consumption and what is left over is sold for profit, improving nutrition and income at the household level.     Through government-led efforts the poverty rate fell from 56.7 percent in 2006 to 44.9 percent in 2011. If maintained over the longer term, this annual poverty reduction rate of 2.4 percent could put Rwanda in the company of Asian Tiger economies such as China, Vietnam and Thailand that have been able over many years to lift millions out of poverty while sustaining growth. There hasRead More