No end to gender disparities here: UNFPA report

Says gains unevenly distributed

Kathmandu, July 27:

Nepal’s gender development indicators (GDI) increased from 0.312 to 0.511 over the last nine years, according to a report titled ‘Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women in Nepal’ launched today by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The GDI value is a composite index measuring the average achievement in three basic dimensions — longevity, education and a standard of living (measured by purchasing power parity, PPP, and income) — adjusted to account for inequalities between men and women. The greater the gender disparity in basic human development index (GDI), the lower is a country’s GDI relative to its HDI.

Presenting the highlights of the report, Dr Meena Acharya, gender expert and study team leader, said: “There has been significant progress in women’s access to education and health resources. Yet gender disparities in these key areas continue. Male-female disparities in education increase steadily from the primary to post-graduate levels.”

Dr Acharya added that educational and health gains have been distributed very unevenly among various castes and ethnicities, ecological and development regions, and between urban and rural areas. Particularly, Dalit men and women are at the lowest end of all access indicators. The decade-long armed conflict has aggravated the access problem in both education and health.

Junko Sazaki, UNFPA representative, said: “Sexual and gender-based violence tends to increase and was overlooked in post-conflict situation. Without addressing the gendered dimensions of the conflict and without women’s direct and active engagement in the peace process, there is little hope in achieving meaningful an sustainable peace.”

She added that empowering women is an indispensable strategy for advancing development and reducing poverty.

Launching the report, Minister for Foreign Affairs Sahana Pradhan said Nepali women are still deprived of opportunities in comparison to their male counterparts. According to the report, women’s access to fixed assets, property and credit is still very limited.

Discriminatory wage structures and unequal access to earned income have not been reduced, but have actually increased over the last ten years both in agriculture and non-agriculture sectors.

The report said women still continue to face legal discrimination regarding the most fundamental rights, such as citizenship and inheritance.

Women’s representation in political or administrative decision-making bodies has not improved much either, except at the grassroots level in locally elected VDC assemblies.

Much effort has been made to strengthen the capacity of the government machinery to understand and deal with gender mainstreaming, particularly in ministries.

The UNFPA had commissioned a 1997 study on Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women. This study is an update of the

1997 publication.