I’ve been looking through the UN’s “State Of The World’s Children 2007” report (pdf link), which seems to concentrate mostly on children in the developing world. The entire report is well worth reading, or at least skimming the summaries included at the start of each chapter.
It’s clear the authors believe it’s impossible to discuss improving the state of the world’s children, without also discussing the state of the world’s mothers. The rest of this post is quoted from the summary of chapter two:
- A growing body of evidence indicates that household decisions are often made through a bargaining process that is more likely to favour men than women. Factors underlying women’s influence in decision-making processes include control of income and assets, age at marriage and level of education.
- According to data from the Demographic and Health Surveys, in only 10 out of the 30 developing countries surveyed did half or more of women participate in all household decisions, including those regarding major household spending, their own health care and their visits with friends or relatives outside the home.
- The consequences of women’s exclusion from household decisions can be as dire for children as they are for women themselves. According to a study conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute, if men and women had equal influence in decision-making, the incidence of underweight children under three years old in South Asia would fall by up to 13 percentage points, resulting in 13.4 million fewer undernourished children in the region; in sub-Saharan Africa, an additional 1.7 million children would be adequately nourished.
- A woman’s empowerment within the household increases the likelihood that her children, particularly girls, will attend school. A UNICEF survey of selected countries across the developing world found that, on average, children with uneducated mothers are at least twice as likely to be out of school than children whose mothers attended primary school.
- Men play a vital role in promoting egalitarian decision-making. Through simple and direct strategies, such as sharing responsibility for household chores and childcare, men can help combat gender discrimination in households and communities.
- Women themselves are the most important catalysts for change. By challenging and defying discriminatory attitudes in their communities, women’s groups can advance the rights of girls and women for generations to come.