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Providing a Better Future for Women and Children: UNICEF

Beijing+10 opened on Morning at Beijing's Great Hall of the People in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, in China for a five-day visit, delivered her remarks at the opening day's afternoon plenary session.

Veneman began by emphasizing the need to not lose sight of the girl child at Beijing+10 and after, because gender discrimination can begin at the earliest stages of life.

Noting that all eight Millennium Development Goals impact children, Veneman emphasized the importance of UNICEF programs and partnerships that promote gender equality and empower women. She noted the particular importance of girls' education "because of its positive effects on the development of the individual and the well-being of societies."

"Girls' education is not only fundamental to the achievement and sustainability of poverty reduction, but it also applies to other development goals," Veneman said, adding that educating girls provides both short- and long-term benefits, including reduced child mortality, increased productivity and income, better-educated children and gains for women's and girls' social status and empowerment. She went on to note that 115 million children, the majority of whom are girls, were still out of school, despite the gains that had been made.

Veneman noted how gender disparities contributed to a greater risk of women contracting HIV, with the situation further exacerbated by sexual exploitation and the trafficking of women and children. She told of how, during a recent visit to Africa, she learned firsthand from children who had been kidnapped, including girls who had been forced to become soldiers or sold into sexual slavery.

"Gender-based violence in any of its forms", Veneman continued, "denies girls and women their basic rights and dignity, and harms the development of entire countries." Ending violence against women therefore must be a priority for sustainable development and for the realization of the fullest potential of both children and women, she said.

Providing a better future for women and children therefore requires a renewed commitment to the principles of the Beijing Declaration and to the Millennium Development Goals by "supportive governments, economic empowerment and a focus on poverty, health, education and partnerships," Veneman concluded.

On Tuesday the UNICEF Executive Director will speak at the opening of the Annual Workshop of the Framework of Cooperation for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Asia Pacific Region.

(China.org.cn August 30, 2005)



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