UNIFEM, the UN
Development Fund for Women, has released its new biennial report on the
progress women have made in such areas as politics, economics and justice. The
report is called: Who Answers to Women? Gender and Accountability.
main author, Anne-Marie Goetz, is UNIFEM's adviser on governance, peace and
security. From New York City, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service
reporter Joe De Capua about the report's findings.
we ask who answers to women, we're asking about accountability. Accountability
is about ensuring that power-holders answer to those affected by their actions.
And answer means they give an account and if they've done something wrong there
are consequences. What we point out in the report is that this question is
never asked from the point of view of women. Women experience accountability
differently from men. [There are] perhaps in many societies a greater tolerance
for a relative lack of accountability to women," she says.
does accountability differ? Goetz says, "It's easy to see in the justice
system. There's a range of crimes that are not even considered crimes in some
countries. I'm speaking specifically about…crimes of sexual violence. In many
countries…sexual violence is very difficult to lay charges for, to prosecute
and get convictions. So women experience justice differently from men, where
some crimes against women are not treated in the same way as crimes against
example is the clearing of landmines, such as in Angola. Goetz says, "Roads and
bridges were the first to be de-mined, which was terrific for soldiers
returning home. Wells and fields were not, which is where women and children
UNIFEM report covers five key areas, "where the need to strengthen accountability
to women is urgent." They are politics and governance, access to public
services, economic opportunities, justice and the distribution of international
assistance for development and security.
politics and governance, Goetz says, "Right now, around the world, there [are]
more women in government in elected positions than ever before. But the fact
is, women are outnumbered (by men), as a global average, in parliament or
national assemblies, four to one. The global average of women in public
decision-making in elected positions is just 18.4 percent. Why does that
matter? Well, from a pure democratic justice perspective, there's a problem if
women are not able to compete in the political arena to the same degree as men.
There's also a consequential effect. Because the number of women in
politics…actually has been shown to result in stronger spending on priority
areas of women's concern."
report also says women still lag economically. "Still around the world, women
earn on average between 15 and 17 percent less than men for the same work. And
that's a sign of an accountability failure, a failure to uphold equal pay
standards and international labor rights standards," she says.
economic situation for women has also affected migration patterns, according
the UNIFEM report. "Women have recently become 50 percent of global migrants.
This flow of migrants with tertiary education has become feminized. More women
than men with high qualifications are migrating," she says.
Goetz says this can have "devastating
implications" for developing countries, leaving them without women who can be
economic leaders. She adds that while education is improving for women, there's
still much to be done regarding women's equality and gender empowerment. "Our
report shows it's going to take 40 years, another 40 years, for developing
countries to get anywhere near parity in politics. The area of the Millennium
Goals which is most seriously off track is decreasing maternal mortality. If
women did have power over decision-making, if power-holders answered to women,
I feel very certain that we would not see such high numbers of women dying of
easily preventable and purely natural causes in pregnancy and childbirth," she