Monthly update from UNFPA in Asia and the Pacifi c

Nepal Commits

APRIL 2011

Activists Call for Intensified Efforts to End Fistula in Pakistan page 3 100th International Women’s Day Marked in Thailand page 4 Iranian Demographer, African Research Institution, Win 2011 United Nations Population Award page 5 Statement by UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin on Japanese Earthquakes and Tsunami page 5 Mongolian Government and UN Sign Development Assistance Framework for 2012-2016 page 6 UN in Myanmar Identifies Strategic Priorities for the Future page 6 Luxembourg Provides EUR8.1 Million to Promote Maternal and Child Health in Lao PDR page 8 VIDEO: Cool Women page 9

to Post-Conflict Support and Participation
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Photo: William A. Ryan/UNFPA

PUBLICATION: Integrating Reproductive Rights into the Work of National Human Rights Institutions of the Asia Pacific Region page 9

Nepal Commits to Post-Conflict Support and Participation
Global launch of National Action Plan at the Commission on the Status of Women
and was intimately involved in developing the NAP through technical and budgetary assistance to the Nepalese government and civil society. The Royal Norwegian Embassy chaired the peace support working group, which UNFPA co-chaired.
Photo: Martin Lerberg Fossum/Norway UN Mission

“UNFPA will continue to expand its partnership with the government of Nepal to realize the goals as stated under this plan,” said Purnima Mane, UNFPA Deputy Executive Director (Programme) at the launch. “Our contributions in this area are a major part of our leading role within the UN System in line with our commitment on achieving the MDGs, the ICPD and Beijing Conference goals, and various international human rights instruments,” she added.
Purnima Mane, Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA, speaks at the global launch of Nepal’s National Action Plan.

A legacy of violence A recent UNFPA video ( UNFPAasia#p/u/2/6AAcHmXawIo) discusses the new action plan, and the urgent need for it. During Nepal’s armed conflict between Government and Maoist forces, women and girls throughout the country endured severe hardship. Thousands of mothers struggled to provide for their families after their husbands were killed or fled the fighting. Some young women were forced into service, leaving emotional scars long after the fighting stopped. Many others were subjected to brutality including sexual violence. Perpetrators were rarely brought to justice. The 2006 peace accord ended the decade-long war but not the suffering and discrimination. Aiming for redress A key aim was give reparations and justice to the victims, and empower and give women meaningful participation in the government. The plan outlines measures to promote greater participation by women in Nepal’s peace process, supported by steps to raise public awareness on gender equality. It recognizes the need to provide support and services including health care to those who have been disadvantaged by the conflict. And it calls for training for officials and police in addressing sexual violence. There is also a commitment to meet the special needs of females who fought in the conflict. Former combatants who were recruited as child soldiers, were discharged in 2010. To help them reintegrate in society, the UN provided counselling and job skills training.

UNITED NATIONS, New York - The United Nations Security Council, in resolutions 1325 and 1820, recognized that women and girls need protection and support during and following all conflicts, and called for women’s full participation in peacebuilding. These landmark resolutions, which link women’s experiences of conflict to the maintenance of international peace and security, are important indicators of international opinion. But the real test of the resolutions is how they impact women on the ground. Nepal is the first country in South Asia to adopt a National Action Plan on women, peace and security. The plan was launched on the international stage on 23 February during the Commission on the Status of Women at an event hosted jointly by UNFPA, the Permanent Missions of Nepal and Norway to the UN, and UN Women. Partners in peace and reconciliation Activists who helped draft the action plan are hopeful that it will give women a stronger voice in Nepal’s reconstruction, and above all, will make a real difference in the lives of those most affected by the conflict: women who, up to now, have not gotten the support they urgently need. UNFPA has been has been an active partner in the peace and reconciliation process in the country


Monthly update from UNFPA in Asia and the Pacifi c

APRIL 2011

Activists Call for Intensified Efforts to End Fistula in Pakistan

After a successful fistula repair operation, Shamim, 26, was released from a hospital in Qatar. After three pregnancies that ended in still-born babies, she and her husband now have adopted a baby girl.

KARACHI, Pakistan - At least 150,000 women in Pakistan suffer from obstetric fistula - damage to the bladder or large intestine caused by obstructed labour. Because of fistula, they leak urine and/or feces uncontrollably. Every year, six thousand more Pakistani women develop this condition. Only 800 are treated with corrective surgery. The rest face a life of stigma and exclusion from their communities. They become social outcasts. “The government will establish a National Task Force on Fistula to move from a campaign-based to a permanent service-based approach for the management of this stark health challenge,” said Dr. Assad Hafeez, a Director-General in the Ministry of Health, during a regional fistula conference in Karachi on 4-6 March. The conference brought together 3,000 activists, including 11 international fistula surgeons. It covered a range of issues, from safe motherhood to social reintegration of fistula survivors, providing an opportunity to reach consensus on priorities and draw attention to the linkages between fistula and poverty, inequality, gender disparity and poor education. The participating surgeons also operated on complex fistula cases while they were in Pakistan. Government officials at the conference stressed that fistula should be addressed as a matter of human

rights and social justice. “Women with fistula are looked down upon and many are divorced because of this condition, even though fistula is not directly linked to death and can be successfully repaired by a trained surgeon,” Dr. Hafeez said. “If we don’t play a more proactive role - providing basic health care and training more competent staff on safe motherhood and emergency obstetrical care - we won’t be able to help thousands of women who suffer from fistula,” he added. Seven regional centres have already been established in major cities, along with seven referral centres in government-owned teaching hospitals. They provide fistula treatment free of charge, including the cost of transportation and accommodation, making access to care easier for women. But it’s not enough. The UNFPA Representative in Pakistan, Mr. Rabbi Royan, called for intensified effort, political commitment, additional resources, and strengthened collaboration among government departments, community groups, NGOs, UN agencies and health professionals to end fistula in Pakistan. Conference participants designated March 21st as Fistula Awareness Day in Pakistan. Commemorated for the first time in the country, the event was cohosted by the Spouses of the Heads of Mission from Australia, Canada, France, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.


Photo: Wendy Marijnissen/UNFPA

100th International Women’s Day Marked in Thailand
Celebration highlights struggle for equal rights and empowerment

A university student from Bangkok writing her message on a wall for the International Women’s Day.

BANGKOK - Promoting equal access to education, sexual and reproductive health services, and employment opportunities is crucial to ensuring gender equality and women’s empowerment, according to the presenters at the regional launch of the International Women’s Day on 8 March. They stressed that investing in women and girls has a positive impact on the well-being of families, communities and the economy. Attended by UN officials, government representatives, women’s rights advocates and youth representatives, this year’s celebration marked the centenary of the first International Women’s Day. With the theme “Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women”, the event highlighted the economic, political, and social achievements of women in the past 100 years across the globe and in the region. While progress has been made in implementing laws advancing gender equality, women and girls still face barriers in exercising their rights. Many still endure unacceptable discrimination, violence and exploitation. “In Asia, women and girls are often perceived as second class citizens. They are only expected to help out with household chores like cleaning and cooking, rather than voicing and advocating for rights,” said presenter Thaw Zin Aye of 7Sisters, a coalition representing young people from key populations affected by HIV across the Asia-Pacific region. “If the

society thinks like that, what about women and girls living with or vulnerable to HIV. How will they be treated?” When AIDS first emerged in the 1980s, most of those affected were men. But today, women account for nearly half of all people living with HIV worldwide. According to UNAIDS estimates, the number of HIV-positive women and girls has increased in every region over the past two years, with rates rising most rapidly in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. Women continue to be underrepresented in education and the labour market. By some estimates, women hold only 20 per cent of science and technology job globally. “It’s hard to be a woman,” said Chayaporn, a network engineer at an information technology company in Bangkok. “Despite modernity, discrimination against women still exists in the workplace. To earn trust and respect from men, I need to work harder.” In contrast, 14-year-old Disha, who plans to study biology in college, said she has been very lucky to choose her education, an option many girls her age do not have. “I encourage young people, particularly girls, to have stronger voice to raise issues that affect them. Our voices are being heard and things are gradually changing,” said Disha. “Despite all the issues plaguing us, I think that being a young women in the 21st century is exciting.”


Photo: Philip Nalangan/UNFPA

Monthly update from UNFPA in Asia and the Pacifi c

APRIL 2011

Iranian Demographer, African Research Institution, Win 2011 United Nations Population Award
UNITED NATIONS, New York - An Iranian demographer, Mohammad Jalal Abbasi-Shavazi, and an African research institution, L’Institut de Formation et de Recherche Démographique, were announced on 9 March as winners of the 2011 United Nations Population Award. The Award is given annually to individuals and institutions for outstanding work in population and in improving the health of individuals. The Award Committee, chaired by Egypt’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Maged A. Abdelaziz, consists of 10 United Nations Member States, with UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, as its secretariat. The Award is scheduled to be presented on 16 June at a ceremony at the United Nations. Mr. Abbasi-Shavazi, Chairman of the Division of Population Research at the University of Tehran since 2001, has a long career in teaching, demographic research and advisory and policy services, according to information submitted to the Award Committee. His focus is on population and development, reproductive health and fertility, immigration and refugees. He has contributed to the understanding of the dynamics of Iran’s fertility decline, which showed that improving women’s education and status and their access to reproductive health care has led to smaller family sizes. Mr. Abbasi-Shavazi, who holds a PhD in Demography from the Australian National University, has promoted the view that social, economic and cultural differences among countries are more important than religion as explanations of fertility differentials, according to information submitted to the Committee. He has also been a bridge between international demographers and Iranian scholars to study the rapid Iranian fertility decline. Established in 1972, IFORD has been the leading institution for training, research and technical assistance in the field of population, serving 26 countries in Africa and the Indian Ocean, according to information submitted to the Committee. Its mandate focuses on offering technical support and training to African teams in the field of population and development, and on conducting research relevant to the understanding of African population issues. IFORD, which is based in Cameroon, has a continuous programme of research in sexual and reproductive health, gender and demographic issues, migration, and the linkages between population, the environment and development. It assists African countries in conducting their population censuses, establishing local research activities, providing local training, creating and managing databases, and advising in the formulation and evaluation of population policies. It has so far trained more than 500 African demographers. The United Nations Economic and Social Council elects countries to the Award Committee for three-year terms. Currently, these members are: Bangladesh, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Ghana, Guatemala, Jamaica, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Norway and the United Republic of Tanzania. The United Nations Secretary-General and the UNFPA Executive Director are ex-officio members.

Statement by UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin on Japanese Earthquakes and Tsunami
UNITED NATIONS, New York - On behalf of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, I express our deepest sympathy to the people and Government of Japan following the catastrophic earthquakes and tsunami. We are shocked and saddened by the death of thousands of people and the widespread destruction, and present our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved nation. In a spirit of solidarity, we join the United Nations Secretary General in standing by the Japanese people, ready to join the international community’s efforts in extending all possible assistance.


Mongolian Government and UN Sign Development Assistance Framework for 2012-2016
ULAANBAATAR - The Mongolian Government and the UN signed the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for 2012-2016 at a ceremony held on 17 March at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, attended by government officials, ministers, representatives of UN agencies, development partners and the media. The UNDAF is a strategic programming framework of the UN system to support the achievement of the national development priorities contained in Mongolia’s Comprehensive National Development Strategy for 2008-2015, as well as the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. It has been developed through a partnership between the UN system, the government, and the civil society, following a comprehensive analysis of development issues in Mongolia. Through UNDAF, the UN system will work with the government, civil society and other development partners on four strategic priorities:
Photo: UNDP

Mongolia, the organization is proud to work with the government in implementing the UNDAF from 2012 to 2016.


Economic development is inclusive and equitable contributing towards poverty alleviation 2. Equitable access to, and utilization of, quality basic social services and sustainable social protection 3. Improved sustainability of natural resources management, and resilience of ecosystems and vulnerable populations to the changing climate 4. Strengthened governance for protection of human rights and reduction of disparities The UNDAF was signed by H.E. Gombojav Zandanshatar, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, on behalf of the government, and by Sezin Sinanoglu, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Mongolia. The document was also signed by representatives of other UN agencies present in Mongolia: UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA, WHO, FAO, ILO, UNESCO, UN Habitat, UNAIDS, UNHCR, UNV, UNEP, UNIDO and IAEA. At the signing ceremony of the UNDAF, Zandanshatar highlighted the importance of cooperation between the government and the UN system in effectively supporting the country’s development. Meanwhile, Sinanoglu said that with UN’s long history of good cooperation with

Sezin Sinanoglu (left), UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Mongolia, shaking hands with H.E. Gombojav Zandanshatar (right), Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade

UN in Myanmar Identifies Strategic Priorities for the Future
YANGON - Four strategic priorities and key elements of the new Strategic Framework for the United Nations in Myanmar were presented on 15 March at the monthly Humanitarian Partnership Group meeting, attended by over 80 experts, heads of missions and UN agencies, diplomats and aid workers. The priorities, which are the result of extensive analysis of humanitarian and development challenges in the country, will guide UN engagement and programming and form the basis of a new Strategic Framework for the period 2012-2015. “The UN Strategic Framework aims to be a collective, coherent and integrated programming

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Monthly update from UNFPA in Asia and the Pacifi c

APRIL 2011

and monitoring framework for UN contributions in Myanmar, based on the UN’s comparative advantages. The UN Strategic Framework is based on the analyses of the country’s situation, development challenges that it faces and opportunities ahead of it,” said Bishow Parajuli, UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator, who chaired the meeting. The UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator explained that consultations had been held with focal points from all relevant government ministries, the latest in February. Based on these consultations it had been agreed that UN engagement would focus on four Strategic Priorities, namely: 1. Encourage inclusive growth (both rural and urban), including agricultural development and enhancement of employment opportunities 2. Increase equitable access to quality social services 3. Reduce vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change 4. Promote good governance and strengthen democratic institutions and rights Under the Strategic Framework, UN agencies, funds and programmes in Myanmar, as well as non-resident agencies, regional commissions and other UN entities, will work with common goals and objectives and in partnership with development partners to meet the socioeconomic and humanitarian needs of the people of Myanmar. A joint UN Action Plan will follow the UN Strategic Framework document. “In implementing the UN Strategic Framework, continued consultations with all stakeholders will be critical to regularly and systematically review the progress towards the four Strategic Priorities. The UN will continue to engage with all partners, to ensure that true progress is made, including towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Myanmar, which remains a top priority,” said Parajuli and added that despite progress in some areas, Myanmar must accelerate its efforts if the MDGs and their targets are to be fully realized by 2015. Some concrete examples of how joint programmes will be developed, in line with the new priorities and in support of the MDGs, were presented at the meeting by Mohamed Abdel-Ahad, UNFPA

Representative and Chair of the MDG Monitoring & Evaluation Group in Myanmar. “In line with the UN Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health to accelerate achievement of health MDGs, UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO are currently developing a joint programme to address unmet needs for maternal and child health care in Myanmar with support from AusAid. Another example is a joint programme to strengthen data systems and bridge data gaps on MDGs, which is currently being explored by the MDG Monitoring & Evaluation Group and UNESCAP. More will emerge as we move forward with the strategic planning progress,” said Abdel-Ahad. The Myanmar Humanitarian Partnership Group meeting also included an update on recovery efforts in the areas affected by Cyclone Giri, which struck Myanmar’s Rakhine State on 20 October 2010, affecting the lives of some 260,000 people. International donors have provided USD 40 million for relief and early recovery, which are now benefitting the people affected by the cyclone. As of February 2011, a total of USD 50.2 million were needed for recovery activities, according to the PostGiri Consolidated Action Plan jointly prepared by UN and NGOs working in the affected townships. The meeting also applauded the recent substantial increase in aid from the United Kingdom. According to an announcement from the Department for International Development (DFID) last week, the UK will spend an average of £46 million (USD 75 million) per year in Myanmar until 2015. The need to look at long-term solutions to the water and sanitation problem in Myanmar was highlighted in a presentation by the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Working Group, which is comprised of both UN agencies and international and local non-governmental organizations. Recent assessments have shown that the WASH response to Cyclone Giri was quick with a coverage of more than 80 percent. In the Ayeyarwady Delta, still affected by the effects of the 2008 Cyclone Nargis, access to water and sanitation has improved compared with the previous two years. Nevertheless, water shortage may need to be addressed in the latter part of the dry season in many parts of the country.


Luxembourg Provides EUR8.1 Million to Promote Maternal and Child Health in Lao PDR

Totaling EUR8.1 million, the funds will be utilized for over five years to support the Ministry of Health’s National Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health Services Strategy in Lao PDR.

VIENTIANE - Efforts to improve the health of women and children living in remote areas of Lao PDR have been given an important boost with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Government of Lao PDR and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The MoU was signed at a ceremony on 4 March by the Minister of Health, Dr Ponmek Dalaloy, and the Luxembourg Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, Marie-Josee Jacobs. Attending the ceremony were senior representatives of the four UN agencies - UNICEF, WFP, WHO and UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund whose joint programme will utilize the funds totaling EUR8.1 million over five years to support the Ministry of Health’s National Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health Services Strategy. “This programme will make a significant contribution towards reducing mortality rates among mothers, newborns and young children, as well as helping tackle the alarming levels of malnutrition found among too many women and children,” said Dr Dalaloy. “As such it also brings us an important step closer towards Lao PDR’s Millennium Development Goal targets.” Eighteen districts in five provinces - Phongsaly, Luang Namtha, Luangprabang, Oudomxay and Savannakhet - have been selected to receive the support, based on criteria such as the prevailing high

rates of disease and stunting among children, and low utilization of existing health facilities. Currently, less than 20 per cent of women have the benefit of a skilled birth attendant when they give birth, and up to three Lao women die every day during pregnancy or childbirth. Infant mortality rates have improved, but remain high, at 70 per 1,000 live births. Malnutrition data is scarcely more encouraging. There has been almost no change in the rate of stunting since 2000, at 40.4 per cent of children under five. Over 40 per cent of children aged 6-59 months are anaemic. To prevent stunting, specialized nutrition products will be given to children from 6 to 23 months of age who are in danger of becoming chronically malnourished. In addition, the Luxembourg contribution will be used to provide food to pregnant women as an incentive for them to access health facilities, and to ensure nutrition education for women of child-bearing age and other caregivers. As well as improving the quality of health services delivered to communities, the financial support from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg will help strengthen the planning and district-level management of the Government’s package of Integrated Maternal and Neonatal Child Health (MNCH) services. Support will also be given to improving awareness and understanding of health issues at community level, and promoting demand among families for the

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Photo: Diego De La Rosa/UNFPA

Monthly update from UNFPA in Asia and the Pacifi c

APRIL 2011

MNCH services provided by the Government of Lao PDR. “Under the Lao-Luxembourg Health Sector Support Programme, we are already providing assistance to mothers and newborns throughout the country,” said Minister Jacobs, “but we felt that we could do a lot more and further expand the outreach of healthcare with the help of the UN system.” The Minister pointed that the needs were substantial - especially in remote areas and among ethnic minorities. She added: “However, we are confident that under the leadership of the Ministry of Health and the combined expertise of UNICEF, WFP, WHO and UNFPA, our joint action will significantly contribute to help the Government of Lao PDR in meeting its development objectives and in particular MDGs 1, 4 and 5.” The MoU underlines the specific contributions of each of the four UN agencies, all of whom have long records of cooperation with the Government in Lao PDR. Combining the efforts of the various UN agencies, says the document, “offers a number of comparative advantages to the MoH including supporting health system strengthening, offering opportunities for coordinated and comprehensive technical leadership and coordination of the development partner community, whilst at the same time supporting government leadership and governance.”


Integrating Reproductive Rights into the Work of National Human Rights Institutions of the Asia Pacific Region
Reproduction is an elemental, lifechanging common experience for much of humanity. Yet each year, more than 120 million couples have an unmet need for contraception, 80 million women have unintended pregnancies (45 million of which end in abortion), and more than half a million women are estimated to die from complications associated with pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. One might expect that reproductive rights would have a correspondingly important place in international human rights law and practice. However, this is not the current position. Thus far, reproductive rights have been little discussed and are often poorly understood. Many aspects of reproductive rights remain unsettled and controversial. As a result, reproductive rights have tended to occupy a marginalized position in the international human rights landscape. National human rights institutions are now recognized as a major force for protection and promotion of human rights at the domestic level - in many cases helping to lessen the “implementation gap’’ between international rules and standards, and the practice of human rights on the ground. This report focuses on reproductive rights and the extent to which these rights are, or could be, integrated into the work of national human rights institutions. It analyzes the current work practices and views of these institutions, and the major challenges and risks they face in dealing effectively with the issue.


Cool Women

This video presents the stories of five independent women from Maldives: Aishath, an artist; Zareena, a yam grower, Shakeeba, a taxi driver; Amira, a religious leader; and Aminath, an office worker.
Video: UNFPA Maldives and Thirees Nuvaeh Link:

UNFPA Asia-Pacific Regional Office, 4th Floor UN Service Building, Rajdamnern Nok Avenue, Bangkok 10200, Thailand For more information, visit


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