BANGKOK — The chief of the U.N. Population Fund
(UNFPA) is calling for Asia governments to give higher priority to women’s development programs. Babatunde Osotimehin says countries should address increasing population concerns with what he called "foresight and justice".
Greater empowerment for women
U.N. Population Fund Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin is calling for greater empowerment of women and young girls to address issues of social inequality and to boost economies as women take up greater roles in development.
Before this week's Asian Population conference in Bangkok, Osotimehin says empowering women would reduce violence against women and help boost economic and social development. “Violence against women would reduce considerably, it would reduce the issues of teenage and early marriages, and it would reduce those things, which at this point in time are present in many parts of the world, particularly in this part of the world,” he said.
Asian Population Association Conference
The Asian Population Association Conference
includes discussions on internal migration and urbanization, trends in household and marriages, childbearing, domestic violence, and trends in aging populations.
Osotimehin says Asia is “generally doing well” in providing health services, but issues access need to be addressed. “What we need to drill down and do better is to ensure that there is equitable access - I think that is probably something which we would need to ensure that it is all inclusive," he stated. "And that it is equitable for everybody. That in itself is a global problem, in this region it is just as obvious as in other parts of the world.”
The former Nigerian Minister of Health says attention needs to be focused in Asia on the issue of couple's using technology, such as ultrasound, to select male babies. The UNFPA forecasts that by 2030 China and India may have 50 percent more men than women among those seeking marriage.
Osotimehin says South Korea has largely solved the problem, but in “other counties” it remains a “serious” issue. “The imbalance is actually getting very serious. The inappropriate use of technologies in other parts we should discourage and we should ensure that we restore the natural balance between boys and girls in these countries. We are working very hard with groups on the ground in those other countries - with government and with civil society in order to address these issues,” he explained.
He says other regions can learn a lot from Asia, especially how to benefit from from the “demographic advantage” of reduced population growth to boost their economies, as well as Asia’s “good practices” in reproductive health services, especially family planning.
Following this conference, Osotimehin visits Burma to hold talks with senior government officials on steps how the UNFP can take to boost Burma’s human development after decades of neglect under military rule.