The theme of women empowerment, sustainable development and health in the context of a balanced world has been in active debate for many years. Individual activists, communities at local, national and international level, as well as organisations and governments, have raised their respective voices simultaneously or at different times to achieve positive outcomes for women and society as a whole. Fairness to women can achieve overall balancing factors in life – improving the global quality of life. Indeed over the last 30 years the United Nations (UN) has been especially concerned with these topics: relevant statements, announcements and initiatives to achieve positive change have been made public in the context of female empowerment, having regard to key issues such as those set out in 1994 as follows:
- The empowerment and autonomy of women and the improvement of their political, social, economic and health status is a vital objective in itself. In addition, it is essential for the achievement of sustainable development.
- The full participation and partnership of both women and men is required in productive and reproductive life, including shared responsibilities for the care and nurturing of children and maintenance of the household. In all parts of the world, women are facing threats to their lives, health and well- being as a result of being overburdened with work and of their lack of power and influence. In many parts of the world, women receive less formal education than men, and at the same time, women’s own knowledge, abilities and coping mechanisms often go unrecognized.
- The power relations that impede women’s attainment of healthy and fulfilling lives operate at many levels of society, from the most personal to the highly public.
- Achieving change requires policy and programme actions that improve women’s access to secure livelihoods and economic resources, alleviate their extra domestic responsibilities, remove unfair impediments to their participation in public life, and raise social awareness through effective programmes of education and mass communication.
- Improving the status of women enhances their decision-making capacity at all levels in all spheres of life.including reproduction. This is essential for the long- term success of population programmes.
- Education is one of the most important means of empowering women with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to participate fully in the development process. Many decades ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserted that “everyone has the right to education”. Many women have no access to printed knowledge, to new skills or to technologies that would improve the quality of their lives and help them shape and adapt to social and economic change. Of the millions of children who are not enrolled in primary school the vast majority of them are girls.
- Countries have been urged to empower women and should take steps to eliminate inequalities between men and women through such steps as:
(a) Establishing mechanisms for women’s equal participation and equitable representation at all levels of the political process and public life in each community and society and enabling women to articulate their concerns and needs;
(b) Promoting the fulfilment of women’s potential through education, skill development and employment, giving paramount importance to the elimination of poverty, illiteracy and ill health among women;
(c) Eliminating all practices that discriminate against women; assisting women to establish and realize their rights, including those that relate to reproductive and sexual health;
(d) Adopting appropriate measures to improve women’s ability to earn income beyond traditional occupations, achieve economic self-reliance, and ensure women’s equal access to the labour market and social security systems;
(e) Eliminating violence against women;
(f) Eliminating discriminatory practices by employers against women, such as those based on proof of contraceptive use or pregnancy status;
(g) Making it possible, through laws, regulations and other appropriate measures, for women to combine the roles of child-bearing, breast-feeding and child-rearing with participation in the workforce.
At this time when the Coronavirus 19 Global Pandemic is causing so much crisis, heartache and economic suffering it is urgent that this quest to balance the inequalities and factors in life is given a fresh urgency as we move to the era of change that will follow in the coming months and years. More female engagement in so many aspects of life may assist also with the issues of sustainable development, climate change and upcoming healthy happy generations on the planet.