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UN: Progress for Women Is Slow, Uneven, at Risk of Setbacks

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director speaks during a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso
UN: Progress for Women Is Slow, Uneven, at Risk of Setbacks
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The world’s women are making gains in several areas, but the United Nations says progress has been slow and uneven. They say some forward moves could even be at risk of setback.

Sunday is International Women’s Day. In a new report, the U.N. says men still hold a large majority of elected positions, make more money and have access to better jobs and education.

In addition, women in many parts of the world are still facing severe difficulties including child marriage, illiteracy, partner violence and a lack of access to family planning. Rural and native women face these problems in addition to greater discrimination and deeper poverty.

Seize the chance

“We see still, even within these conditions, the possibility to change and the possibility to move forward,” U.N. Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said at the launch of the report Thursday.

Some countries already have seized that chance.

The report found that Latin America is one of the few places where the number of women in the labor force has increased in the past 20 years.

Countries like Chile and Uruguay have increased childcare coverage, the report noted. Researcher Silke Staab of U.N. Women said that those countries “recognized that women’s economic empowerment will not become a reality if families are lacking that kind of support.”

Much of sub-Saharan Africa struggles to provide access to family planning.

But two countries — Ethiopia and Rwanda — have made it a top goal. In the last 20 years, access to birth control methods has grown by 40 percent.

Investment in public works, and workers

The U.N. says progress has happened in places where governments have invested in health systems, trained workers and improved both the quality of and access to health services.

The UN reports progress in keeping more girls in school and the passage of laws to better protect women. It also reports that the number of women who die during pregnancy or childbirth has dropped by half.

But there is still much more to do, the UN adds.

Staab said, “What is needed now is a concerted drive to scale up, expand and deepen policies and programs that can move the needle on women’s rights to the benefit of all.”

I’m Ashley Thompson.

VOA's Margaret Besheer reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

access -n. the right or ability to approach, enter, or use​

illiteracy -n. the state of not knowing how to read or write​

concerted -n. done in a planned and deliberate way usually by several or many people​

scale up -phrasal verb to increase in size

move the needle -expression to make progress

benefit -v. to be useful or helpful to (someone or something)​