KfW hosts lively debate on gender and culture issues
14th November 2008
"That every pregnancy be wanted, every delivery be medically attended and every woman and man be able to protect themselves against AIDS is the goal we are working on". This was the message conveyed by Dr. Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA. She delivered the opening address at the "7th International Dialogue on Population and Sustainable Development" which took place in the "Historischer Kassensaal" of KfW's Berlin Branch on October 15 -16.
To accept this challenge means to bring about changes. These changes affect individuals and their identity. So it is imperative to consider the crucial aspects of gender and culture. It is not easy to reach this goal. State Secretary Dr Stather of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development stressed that women in partner countries often face various forms of resistance if they want to plan their pregnancies themselves. Their partners often take a negative view of modern contraceptives. Under the concept of gender equity, reproductive health programmes must involve men as well as women.
The drastic underfunding in this area pointed out by Professor Paul Hunt, former UN Special Rapporteur on health rights, also raises gender issues: in many places women have little access to education and cannot adequately articulate their vital concerns. Financing of contraceptives has dropped sharply worldwide in recent years and is far from meeting actual needs. According to Dr Claudia Radeke, First Vice President at KfW Entwicklungsbank, currently 200 million couples are unable to determine the size of their family themselves for lack of access to contraceptives. The result is an estimated 76 million unwanted pregnancies each year.
How can programmes be engineered for success if they must address cultural issues and aspects revolving around the relationship between men and women? Programme managers from partner countries presented their approaches at the Conference. Here is one example: in Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa, the Federal Republic of Germany through KfW Entwicklungsbank is financing the distribution of contraceptives at subsidised prices, making them affordable to poor groups of the population and teenagers. A film and radio studio is also being financed. The broadcasts are developed by the national partners who are familiar with the needs and wants of the target population and the environment in which they live.
A TV soap opera in 20 episodes is now being produced on the topics of the role and appreciation of women, couples in dialogue, family planning and the desire for children, and AIDS prevention. It also addresses problems like high-risk pregnancies resulting from early marriage, sexualised violence and female genital mutilation. Certainly one positive contribution the Conference has made is that it has initiated a more intensive dialogue between the partner countries about the experience they have gathered in communication campaigns such as this one.