UNESCO International Forum of NGOs

4th International Forum of NGOs in official partnership with UNESCO
UNESCO Headquarters, Paris
June 29-30, 2015

Global poverty has been reduced in recent years, but inequalities among regions, groups and individuals remain. Poverty is not only a financial issue but also multidimensional and results in social, economic and political exclusion.

Why talk about the role of women in fighting poverty? Why debate the role of women rather than the role of women and men? The answer is that women are disproportionately hit by poverty in comparison to men. The concept “the feminization of poverty” comprises three dimensions; 70 % of the world’s poor are women; the majority of the group of people living in extreme poverty (less than 1 dollar/day) are women and the number of poor women is increasing disproportionately compared to the number of poor men.

Of the 780 million illiterate people in the world, two thirds are women. Moreover, women constitute 70 % of the world’s total workforce, produce 60 % of the world’s food but earn only 10 % of the total income and own less than 1 % of property.

In many parts of the world, women suffer discrimination because of their gender in multiple ways, including little or no education, insufficient health care, domestic and sexual violence and low salaries or difficulties finding and keeping jobs.

The year of 1975, International Women’s year, was a landmark in women’s history as it was followed by the United Nations Decade for Women (1976-1985), the creation of the Commission of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) 1979 as well as the International conferences of Copenhagen (1980), Nairobi (1985) and Beijing (1995).

This year marks the end of the Millennium Development Goals and the beginning of the Post 2015 Agenda of Sustainable Development. It is also the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Conference and the 59th Commission of the Status of Women.

The 4th International Forum of NGOs in official partnership with UNESCO was held at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on June 29- 30th 2015. With approximately 300 participants from NGOs from all over the world, the goal of the Forum was to review the progress that has been made in the field of women and poverty. IFMSA had three representatives from different countries: Michalina Drejza (IFMSA SCORA Director), Arthur Mello (IFMSA LO Public Health Issues) and Emelie Looft (IFMSA- Sweden LPO).

The Forum was hosted by Mr Eric Falt, UNESCO Assistant Director- General for External Relations and Public Information and Ms Martine Levy, Chairperson of the International Conference of NGOs in the UNESCO NGOs Liaison Committee. During two intense days, the participants were presented with data and hard facts from the different regions of the world on the current situation and the progress that has been made. The participants also had the opportunity to listen to testimonials from the different NGOs and get an insight in how they work. There were also thematic sessions and panel discussions debating the NGOs best practices to fight poverty.

The Forum discussed how women can drive poverty eradication by utilising their capacities that in many parts of the world are being undermined. The United Nations have estimated that if women would be given the same access to land, fertilizers, water and crops for food production, more than 100 million people would be lifted out of hunger.

Education was also discussed at length since it is widely regarded as the one key element to eradicate poverty. Education for women has many benefits; it reduces the birth rate, maternal mortality rate and the spread of HIV/AIDS as well as improves conditions for the whole family since educated women will have a better chance to provide for their families. As Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world”.

Women constitute the majority of the informal economy and globally women do the vast majority of unpaid work in the house. This work is not recognized or acknowledged, still many economies would fall apart without it. According to reports the unpaid housework in many societies constitutes about 30- 50% of BNP. This is problematic for women since this means that most women have two jobs; paid and unpaid. In the end democracy starts at home, with treating girls and boys the same and giving them the same opportunities.

Moreover, the Forum also discussed that empowerment and leadership goes hand in hand and the importance of women being involved in decision making. “When you seclude half the population of peace negotiations you can’t be surprised that they are not sustainable” says Ms Frederique Bedos, journalist.

IFMSA has been working on Women’s empowerment and gender equality especially embracing all actions during International Women’s Day celebrations. A new program on Gender Based Violence will be up for adoption during our next August Meeting 2015 in Macedonia. If adopted, we will be targeting Violence against women and Gender Inequalities, gathering empowerment actions and cooperating with other organizations working on ending women’s poverty.

Entry written by Emelie Looft (IFMSA-Sweden), Michalina Drejza (IFMSA SCORA Director) and Diogo Martins (IFMSA Liaison Officer to UNESCO)


Health Inequalities in the Americas

In the past decade, most economies in Latin America and the Caribbean have undergone rapid growth, allowing approximately 70 million people to rise out of poverty. Sadly, this growth has not benefited everyone equally. In turn, it has resulted in major variations in health indicator data, both between and within countries in the Americas region.

About inequality:
The Gini coefficient is a measure of the inequality of a distribution, a Gini coefficient of 0 represents exact equality—that is, every person in the society has the same amount of income and a Gini coefficient of 1 represents total inequality—that is, one person has all the income and the rest of the society has none. The average Gini coefficient of Latin America is 0.52 although this average hides a deep variation between countries, for example Bolivia, Haiti and Jamaica have Gini coefficients around 0.60 and Uruguay close to 0.45; but taking a look in the Americas’ region the gap becomes bigger and bigger with two developed countries like US and Canada, that have Gini coefficients of 0.45 and 0.32 respectively.

On the 22nd of June, 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) State of Inequality Report was presented to the Americas’ Region at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Headquarters in Washington, DC, USA.

With the knowledge that the Latin American region faces the greatest socioeconomic and health inequalities in the world, national Health Ministers, department heads of the PAHO, non-governmental organizations (among these, the International Federation of Medical Students Associations’) and many others, were anxiously awaiting the release of this report.

The objective of this report was to showcase best practices in inequality reporting in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) using high-quality data, robust analysis methods, and user-friendly reporting methodologies.

The publication focuses on inequalities pertaining to reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health (RMNCH), and has been compiled using public data from 86 LMICs. Using 23 RMNCH indicators, inequality status and its evolution over the last few decades has been assessed.  All data has been disaggregated according to four dimensions of inequality: education, economic status, education, sex, and place of residence.

A simultaneously promising and disappointing message permeated the report. Within-country inequalities have narrowed, with improvements in the poor subgroups driving the national decreases in disparities. However, significant inequalities in the RMNCH indicators continue to be present worldwide. Women, infants, and children who are the most socioeconomically disadvantaged, least educated and living in rural regions are the most vulnerable to health inequalities.

Maternal health intervention indicators were found to be the most disparate across inequality dimensions. The percentage of births attended by skilled birth health personnel, for instance, was 80 percentage points higher in the richer subgroups compared to the poor subgroups. A similar trend was discerned in antenatal care coverage (at least 4 visits), wherein the poor and less educated experienced at least a 25 percentage point difference in coverage.

On a positive note, coverage gaps in immunization (specifically BCG, measles, polio, and DTP3) were noted to be very minimal to virtually non-existent across inequality dimensions. Additionally, the under-five mortality rate has significantly decreased in poorer subgroups within the last decade, indicative of narrowing inequalities in child mortality.

On the whole, in many nations reported improvements in health coverage have been driven by select subgroups, failing to capture the true status of all citizens. Health inequality monitoring is thereby integral to the promotion and attainment of health equity, and without a designated regard for and analysis of disadvantaged subgroups, nations risk blinding themselves to the true state of health coverage in the face of improving national averages.  As Dr. Carissa Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization remarked on June 22nd, “We need to go beyond the averages. Because beyond the averages is human suffering of immense proportions.”

As we enter the post-2015 era, we must continue to strive for access to essential health interventions for all who need them, without financial hardship. And in the words of Dr. Etienne, it must be ensured that “we leave no one behind.”

The full report can be accessed at: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/164590/1/9789241564908_eng.pdf?ua=1&ua=1

Entry written by Claudia Frankfurter (IFMSA-CFMS) and Maria Jose Cisneros Caceres (IFMSA Regional Coordinator for the Americas)