Commission on Status of Women Spotlights Successes, Challenges in Countering Negative Stereotypes, Unequal Power Relations

12 March 2013

Commission on Status of Women Spotlights Successes, Challenges in Countering Negative Stereotypes, Unequal Power Relations

12 March 2013
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission on the Status of Women

Fifty-seventh Session

11th & 12th Meetings (AM & PM)

Commission on Status of Women Spotlights Successes, Challenges


in Countering Negative Stereotypes, Unequal Power Relations


Panellists Stress Importance of Equal Employment for Women,

Urge Uncovering ‘Invisible’ Contribution of Caregiving, Other Unpaid Work

A sharp, deeply embedded distinction between the so-called “private” family sphere of women and the “public” market sphere of men — coupled with imbalanced caregiving responsibilities — threatened to hamper the development of both women and societies around the world, stressed panellists addressing the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women today.

Across the day’s two interactive panel discussions, a number of speakers, ranging from academic researchers to Government officials, expressed the general view that women’s employment was critical to development and social advancement.  Meanwhile, others pointed out that the increased involvement of men in the family sphere led to closer relationships between fathers and their children, and called for both sides of the issue to be better represented in national laws and policies — including those around childcare and parental leave time.

Speaking from the perspective of one of the world’s frontrunners in gender equality, Sweden, Niclas Jarvklo, Secretary of that country’s Committee on Men and Gender Equality, said that the “family economy” was more stable with two earners.  Indeed, Sweden recognized women’s employment as a requisite for social well-being.  National political reforms to promote women’s participation in paid employment and welfare reforms aimed to support families via universal health care, child subsidies and child care provisions, he added, noting that the shift from talking about “women’s issues” to addressing “gender equality” had been an important one.

Importantly, gender equality discourse in Sweden also highlighted ways men benefited from such parity, especially by developing closer relationships with children, using that perspective as a way to engage men.  In addition, Sweden’s “dual-earner” policy had been successful, and the country enjoyed one of the highest employment rates for women in the world at 72 percent, compared to 76 per cent of men.  However, while men were active parents, their use of paternity leave still lagged and was growing “slowly, but steadily”.  It was vital to recognize that parental leave had clear gains for men, he stressed in that regard.

Among several speakers during the morning’s panel on "Gender norms and stereotypes, socialization and unequal power relations" and "sharing and balancing life-work responsibilities", Lucia Zachariášová, Head of the Gender Equality Unit of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of the Czech Republic, said that her Government had established a Committee for Balancing Work, Private and Family Life, which dealt with childcare services and flexible working arrangements.  In addition, a working group on men and gender equality had been established to support the caregiving role of men.  Meanwhile, other campaigns encouraged companies and Government agencies to devote more consideration to fathers, offer them benefits, and integrate active fatherhood into their human resource policies.

There were also projects under way to help increase the number and variety of childcare centres throughout the country, she continued.  One such initiative, a draft bill on “Child Groups”, would establish child groups that could be operated by employers for the use by their employees, or through public administrations or non-governmental organizations.  “In general, we are expecting that the growing variety of options of childcare services will positively influence the return and position of women in the labour market after parental leave,” she said.

However, while noting the importance of such legislative and policy measures, a number of panellists throughout the day stressed the need to go beyond laws to address the deeper roots of stereotypes and inequality.  In that vein, one of the morning panel’s discussants, Luis Mora, Chief of Gender, Human Rights and Culture Branch of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), agreed with some speakers that women around the world still shouldered a disproportionate burden in caring for children and elders, and that shared caregiving was vital for both gender equality and sustainable development.  Women still entered the labour market on an unequal footing, he said, largely because they had never had the chance to make their own reproductive choices.

Moreover, he continued, there was a stark dichotomy between the public sphere and the private family sphere, and most economies did not value or measure the impact of women’s unpaid, caregiving work.  There was a need to bridge the gap between the public and the private, making women’s transitions to employment more fluid.  It was also critical to consider ways — beyond legislation — to alter deeply embedded social norms.

During the afternoon panel, which focused on the issues of “Caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS”and “recognizing and valuing unpaid care work”, speakers emphasized the role performed by unpaid caregivers, in particular women, whose average time caring for family members outstripped by eight-fold that of men.  In that regard, Francisco Guillén Martín, Deputy Director of National Accounts of Mexico’s National Statistics Office, said that the role filled by households in the production of necessary goods and services for guaranteeing people’s welfare was a critical statistical indicator.  Nevertheless, it generally went unnoticed by society.

“There is a need to complement what is done in the market with what households can manage,” he said, adding that it was critical to consider such factors as time use and the economic valuation of unpaid household work.  In that regard, he asked the Commission to consider questions such as:  How much does care in the home cost?  They should be sure to consider not just hours of work, but how much that work could be worth in the marketplace, he said.

The Commission will reconvene on Thursday, 14 March, at 10:00 a.m. to continue its work.


The fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women met today to hold the last two of its five formal panel discussions, on the review theme:  Evaluation of progress in the implementation of the agreed conclusions of the fifty-third session of the Commission on the Status of Women on “The equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS”.  For more information, see Press Release WOM/1938.

Panel IV

This morning, the Commission held a panel discussion on two interrelated themes — "Gender norms and stereotypes, socialization and unequal power relations" and "sharing and balancing life-work responsibilities".  Moderated by Commission Vice-Chair Irina Velichko ( Belarus), the first segment featured presentations by

Fatou Sow Sarr (Senegal), Director of the Gender Laboratory, Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar, and Warren Feek (New Zealand), Executive Director, the Communication Initiative, Canada.  It also featured discussant Luis Mora, Chief of Gender, Human Rights and Culture Branch of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The second segment on “sharing and balancing life-work responsibilities”, also moderated by Ms. Velichko, featured Niclas Jarvklo ( Sweden), Secretary, Government Committee on Men and Gender Equality, and Lucia Zachariášová ( Czech Republic), Head of the Gender Equality Unit of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.  Its discussant was Renata Kaczmarska, Focal Point on the Family of the Division for Social Policy of the Department for Economic and Social Affairs.

Opening the first segment, Ms. SARR described progress that Senegal had made in the areas of women’s education and access to decision-making since 2009.  She recalled that Senegal — due to its colonial history and its predominant religions, Islam and Christianity — had a patriarchal social system.  However, the country had recently made significant gains in gender equality and women’s empowerment, with primary school parity achieved between boys and girls.  Forty per cent of high school diploma recipients were now women, she said, and efforts were under way to ensure that families were more involved in schooling.   Senegal had also been exemplary in women’s political participation.  At 43 per cent, its rate of women’s political participation ranked sixth in the world and third in Africa.

Briefly reviewing the history of those achievements, she said that, in 1957, for the first time, a Senegalese women’s association had demanded gender parity.  Since then, women had continued to struggle tirelessly for their rights.  Finally, a draft law on gender parity had been passed by former President Abdoulaye Wade.  Much institutional research also continued on the roles of women in the country, she added.  The country was currently involved in the financial empowerment of women, and it had made success on the legal front, such as the adoption of a law that financially enabled women to take care of their own children.

However, there remained many challenges.   Senegal had not yet harmonized all of its laws with the international commitments to which it had signed on, and the head of the family in Senegal was still typically the husband.  Budgetary commitments to gender issues were still lacking, and men needed to become involved more in the effort.  She also warned that there could be “backpedalling” on commitments due to the rise of fundamentalism.  Nevertheless, there was great hope:  only days ago, Senegal’s the new President, Macky Sall, had sent a message to Senegalese women to the effect that progress was “irrevocable”.  “We need a country that still believes in progress,” she agreed in that regard, calling on international organizations to continue to support those aims.

Next, Mr. FEEK, discussing gender equity and the media, focused first on general trends, saying that a survey of 39 nations showed that, in 1995, 12 per cent of the top media management jobs were held by women; in 2011, that figure had jumped to 27 per cent.  In South Africa, the proportion of news that used women as sources had jumped from 17 per cent in 2003, to 19 per cent in 2010.  Turning to social media, he said in that in 2008, there were 100 million Facebook users; in 2013, there were just under 1 billion.  There were now over half a million apps for the iPhone alone, with the vast majority launched in the last four years.

Relating those trends to gender, he said there were 300 million fewer female mobile phone subscribers than male subscribers.  In low- and middle-income countries, a woman was 21 per cent less likely to own a mobile phone than a man.  In Ghana, for example, 69 per cent of Facebook users were male, and in Sri Lanka, the percentage was 68 per cent.  Globally, women’s representation in computing and the information technology workforce had fallen from a peak of 38 per cent in the mid-1980s, to 29.6 per cent today.  In the United States, the percentage of female software developers had dropped from 42 per cent in 1987 to less than 25 per cent today.  Women owned 40 per cent of private business in the United States, but created only 8 per cent of the venture-backed technology start-ups.

He went on to say that, while hundreds of millions of women were appropriating and using such technologies, men were doing so at much faster rates.  As such, the gender gap was increasing regarding the most powerful and relevant technologies.  Against that backdrop, he urged support for gender-focused HIV/AIDS social movements, to both appropriate digital/mobile technologies and integrate them with other media work.  He also recommended formally monitoring “new” and “traditional” media gender-equity trends, also stressing the importance of promoting women-owned, run and invested companies in digital/mobile sphere.

In the interactive dialogue that followed, delegates outlined national and regional measures to help men and women strike a balance between work and family life, stressing that — around the world — women shouldered a disproportionate burden in caring for children and elders.  Indeed, shared caregiving was vital for gender equality and, more broadly, sustainable development.

Some speakers said the idea of sharing household work was more accepted today than it was a decade ago, while others urged changing mindsets.  For example, it was especially important, Denmark’s delegate said, for women to access male-dominated jobs, and conversely, for men to access traditionally female-dominated work, drawing attention to the related need to address discriminatory practices that excluded both sexes from pursuing such options.  National and international policies must include the key issue of employment for young women.

To that point, Australia’s delegate said employers had a significant role to play in helping families take up equal care duties, citing her country’s “Male Champions of Change” programme, in which CEOs worked to change caregiving policies within their organizations to foster shared responsibilities and encouraged others to do the same.

In the context of HIV/AIDS, some speakers pointed to well-developed strategies to combat stigma, asking also for other examples of how best to combat it and various forms of discrimination.  Nigeria’s delegate underlined the importance of anti-discrimination laws for HIV/AIDS in the labour market.

Efforts to stop HIV/AIDS discrimination also must target younger generations, speakers noted, with Rwanda’s delegate emphasizing the importance of involving young leaders of the national volunteer programmes in discussions on safe behaviour.

Cameroon’s delegate pointed out that, in areas where illiteracy was high, her Government was reaching out to women by posting picture-filled fliers around markets and schools.  Songs and stories also were used to pass on information.  The tactic had been very effective.  Along similar lines, South Africa’s delegate said her Government had worked to empower traditional healers and provide funds for such sectors as home-based care, which was no longer unpaid work.  Government officials also went from house to house to explain the importance of not stigmatizing people living with HIV/AIDS.

Others asked why the number of women in the computing and information technology field had dropped over the years, focusing on the myriad ways they were addressing the absence of women in that sector.  Some also asked why a lower number of women held senior media jobs or used mobile phones.

Responding, Mr. FEEK said caregiving related to HIV/AIDS stemmed from social norms around gender stereotypes.  Those two issues could not be separated.  Powerful processes could either confirm that stereotype or challenge it — including through the media.  There were hundreds of examples of non-governmental groups challenging those norms.  Dialogue — and the voice of those most affected — was crucial, as was the ability to organize in confronting those norms.  He agreed that social media had a deep negative side, including its use in procuring child brides and transporting them across borders.  Social media placed control in the hands of those who wished to use it, not newspaper editors.  To South Africa’s comments, he agreed that community dialogues were crucial.

Turning to questions on women and technology, he said emerging platforms were proliferating on a worldwide scale in terms of take-up.  If women were not equal in the construction of a platform, the ownership and management of companies or as consumers, an important voice was missing.  The technology field had become associated with men and he recommended obtaining country data and identifying individual women who had broken through barriers in the technology field by, for example, starting companies or becoming software developers.  More must be known about national data, he said, asking, for example, which women’s groups were using social media.

For her part, Ms. SARR said situations throughout Africa varied between countries.  Her country, Senegal, had the weakest level of HIV/AIDS in the world as it controlled the use of blood.  However, the number of women infected with the virus was increasing.  Regarding social media, she said the Minister of Communication had launched a programme with universities and studies had been done on cell phones and immigrant women.  Women used social media to mobilize and protest.  As for sharing responsibilities, she said the issue was not one between spouses, but rather one about the other women who would take on such duties when a woman could not.  As for stereotypes, she cited work carried out in primary schools to change discriminatory curricula.

Mr. MORA then provided a summary of the discussion, saying that its roots lay in the feminist debate over the sexual division of labour, an old but substantive debate in terms of gender equality, as well as social justice.  “For many years, we forgot this debate,” he said, noting that many policies had aimed at bringing women from the private to the public space.  But, women now entered the public space on an unequal basis.  In that context, he said a backlash was possible — an issue to be seriously considered, as colonial societies had been much more egalitarian for women than post-colonial ones.

Also speaking in the discussion were representatives of Senegal, Philippines, Germany, Switzerland, Paraguay, China, Tuvalu, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Kenya, Indonesia, Ghana, Iran, Turkey and Bahrain.

A representative of the delegation of the European Union also spoke.

Kicking off the second segment, Mr. JARVKLO said that gender equality goals in Sweden focused on the belief that the family economy was more stable with two earners, and it recognized women’s employment as a requisite for social well-being.  While total gender parity had not yet been achieved in Sweden, the country was known as a global front-runner in equality.  Political reforms to promote women’s participation in paid employment and welfare reforms aimed to support families via universal health care, child subsidies and child care provisions had come a long way, and the transition from talking about “women’s issues” to addressing “gender equality” had been an important shift.

Indeed, gender equality discourse in Sweden had also highlighted ways that men benefited from gender equality, especially by developing closer relationships with children, using that perspective as a way to engage men in the support for gender equality.  He said that Sweden’s “dual-earner” policy had been successful, and the country enjoyed one of the highest employment rates for women in the world.  In 2012, that rate stood at 72 per cent of women, compared to 76 per cent for men, and men were active parents.  Combining employment and parenthood was facilitated through public childcare.

However, he said that the Swedish welfare system had recently undergone transformations related to the new globalized economy and demographic changes.  New political solutions had included increased privatization of services, reductions in social benefit levels and lowered taxes.  Continuing, he said that parental leave had been introduced in Sweden in 1974, with earnings-related benefits paid for six months after childbirth.  Today, Swedish parents were entitled to 16 months; in order to be eligible, a parent had to work for a minimum of 240 days before the birth of a child.  The strategy was designed to work as an incentive for women to enter the labour market before embarking on motherhood, he said.

In that vein, there were two major challenges to men’s use of parental leave:  additional reserve time, rather than economic bonuses, was needed for each parent; and differences in the population needed to be addressed in how parental leave benefits were used.  Men’s use of parental leave had increased slowly but steadily over time, he said.  Discussing impacts and challenges since 2009, he said that attention now needed to be directed to women’s weaker position in the labour market.  In fields with high levels of women from the working lower-middle classes, including migrant women, part-time employment, uncertain employment and substitute positions, were common.  The Swedish norms for part-time work in traditional women’s sectors regarding full-time work needed to be altered.  Moreover, he concluded, it was vital to recognize that parental leave had clear gains for men.

Ms. ZACHARIÁŠOVÁ said that there had been some positive changes towards improving the situation of women in the Czech Republic since 2009, including the adoption of the Anti-discrimination Act, which prohibited discrimination, notably on the grounds of gender.  The Act related to areas of employment, entrepreneurship or social security, which were closely linked to solutions for balancing work, private and family life.  The Government Council for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, established in 2001, was an important institution charged specifically with gender equality issues.

A Committee of the Council, known as the Committee for Balancing Work, Private and Family Life, was established in 2009, and dealt with childcare services and flexible working arrangements.  The Committee was chaired by a representative of the non-governmental organization known as Network of Mothers Centers, a group of centres established by mothers on maternal leave, which enabled mothers with small children to get out of isolation they might face because of all-day care of children.  The Network helped to strengthen their self-confidence and help them become active citizens, she said.

In 2012, the Working Group on Men and Gender Equality was established.  Among other topics, the Working Group was engaged in the issue of men and care giving.  Through the Working Group, the Czech Government also cooperated with non-governmental organizations, and focused, among other things, on supporting the care giving role of men.  Its initiatives, she continued, had led to a Government initiative known as “How to Dad”.

Another campaign focused on all categories of fathers, namely those that were married, single or divorced, biological or adoptive, experienced or beginners, focusing on increasing their parental knowledge and skills.  It further represented a counterbalance to the negative images of fatherhood and fathers often found in the media.  Finally, she said the project encouraged companies and Government agencies to spend more time thinking about fathers, to offer them benefits, and to integrate active fatherhood into their human resource policies.

Some prevalent conditions still negatively affected the sharing of the care giving role between women and men, she said.  For example, the country’s long parental leave of three years might have some negative impacts on the employment of women, as it was mainly women who utilized it.  Also, there was very little coverage for childcare services for pre-school age children, she said.

One of the measures aimed at increasing the number of such facilities was the draft bill on Child Group, which would establish “child groups” as an alternative childcare facility.  Those groups should be primarily established and operated by employers for the use of their employees, she said, or through public administrations or non-governmental organizations.  “In general, we are expecting that the growing variety of options of childcare services will positively influence the return and position of women in the labour market after parental leave,” she said.

In the dialogue that followed, delegates offered national experiences in creating shared caregiving responsibilities, especially as the topic had gained traction on the political agendas of some Governments.  A number of speakers discussed parental allowance and leave models, which generally had led to a higher number of fathers taking paternal leave.

In that context, Colombia’s delegate said her Government was aware that women devoted significantly more time to non-remunerated caregiving — 22 hours per week versus 14 hours for men.  In rural areas, women devoted more than 40 hours per week; men devoted 15 hours.  As such, the Government was working to place all such activities and time into the national account, she said, citing a recent law that urged including those activities into the gross domestic product (GDP) to make it more visible.

Some speakers asked about mechanisms to support fathers in taking their paternal leave.  On that point, Kenya’s delegate said paternal leave was enshrined in the legal framework.  Also, the employment act provided for paid maternity and paternity leave, without forfeiting annual leave.  She asked how Sweden monitored the use of paternity leave in terms of time, and specifically, if men were using their leave for caregiving.

Other speakers underlined again that the burden of care — especially in the context of HIV/AIDS — was carried by women, who often looked after those who had no relatives, accompanying patients to hospitals.  It was important to recognize the rights of female caregivers.  Some also stressed the importance of formulating national legal frameworks that incorporated locally oriented approaches.  In that context, the representative of Nigeria asked for strategies for helping nations budget for non-paid work for women or girls.

Outlining progress, Ecuador’s delegate said her Government aimed to ensure that paid work in the home was recognized as productive work.  Further, Ecuador’s social security programme was progressive in that it accounted for women who did non-paid work in the home.

Responding, Mr. JARVKLO said Sweden had taken a joint approach to family and labour policies, adding that female participation in paid labour was considered essential for societal advancement.  A comprehensive dual-earner system, which relied heavily on gender-equal policies, had proven resilient to economic downswings, an argument that could be used to advocate for long-term investments in gender equality.

He went on to say there was, indeed, a link between the use of parental leave and increased childbirth.  Sweden had a much higher birth rate than other European countries, an argument that made gender equality a foundation for economic development, rather than an appendix to policies.  To Kenya’s comments, he said Sweden faced the situation where men used parental leave at the same time that women also took vacation, meaning that men did not use their leave for the sole purpose of caregiving.  But, that problem had decreased over the years.

Responding to comments from two participating non-governmental groups, Ms. ZACHARIÁŠOVÁ said combating gender stereotypes was a common challenge, which must involve women, men, non-governmental groups and Governments alike.  Doing so would allow for better sharing between men and women in a host of activities.  In that context, she said that reconciling work and family life required two key elements:  having a sufficient number of caregiving services for pre-school children, as well as flexible working arrangements.

In her summary, Ms. KACZMARSKA said she was pleased to hear about so many good practices of balanced caregiving, stressing the importance of legal frameworks in that regard, including International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions.  Those frameworks must translate into good public policies, especially for childcare arrangements.  As for advocacy, she urged promoting such work at national, regional and international levels.

Also speaking in the discussion were the representatives of the Republic of Korea, Uganda, Italy, Colombia, Philippines, Australia, Mexico, Kenya and Germany.

Representatives of the European Women’s Lobby and the International Trade Union Confederation also spoke.

Panel V

In the afternoon, the Commission’s panel focused on “Caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS”and “recognizing and valuing unpaid care work”.  Moderated by Commission Vice-Chair Filippo Cinti (Italy), the first segment featured presentations by:  Violet Shivutse (Kenya), Founder and Director of the Shibuye Community Health Workers and Focal Point Leader of GROOTS Kenya; and Baby Rivona (Indonesia), National Coordinator, Ikatan Perempuan Positif Indonesia (Indonesian Positive Women Network).  Its discussant was Jantine Jacobi, Chief of the Gender Division of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)Secretariat.

The second segment, also moderated by Mr. Cinti, featured presentations by: Francisco Guillén Martín (Mexico), Deputy Director of National Accounts, National Institute of Statistic and Geography, National Statistics Office, and Souad Triki (Tunisia), Economist, Gender and Development Expert and retired Senior Lecturer at the University of Tunisia.  Its discussant was Paz Lopez, Technical Adviser of UN-Women Mexico.

Launching the first segment, Ms. SHIVUTSE described the evolution of the home-based care alliance, recalling that many African Governments initially had been supported by international funds, such as the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.  In most instances, those efforts backfired because they fragmented work carried out by caregivers.  At one conference in Washington, D.C., caregiving — an integral part of HIV/AIDS management — was overlooked, which convenientlydevalued women’s contribution to such work.  After that, grass-roots women working as caregivers realized that their burden only increased when their work was fragmented.  The home-based care alliance was created in 12 countries to allow caregivers to speak with one voice about the work they carried out.

From 2007 to 2009, the Alliance undertook research in six African countries, she said, describing the process of carrying out a “compensation for contribution” survey, which involved collecting data on the time and resources caregivers spent in their work, she said.  The Alliance also made recommendations on the definition of compensation, as many people thought the term meant “stipend”.

Today, caregivers could get grants from the National AIDS Control Council that covered HIV/AIDS-related work.  The power of organizing now allowed caregivers to be perceived as development agents, rather than beneficiaries of development.  Decision-making tables were dominated by men, but when a space was created at that table for women to influence gender decisions, value was added.  She said that discussions on the post-2015 development agenda should include caregiving, to ensure such work was considered a tool to support the achievement of development goals.

Ms. RIVONA outlined a number of achievements made by Indonesia in the area of women living with HIV since the Commission’s agreed conclusions of 2009.  Those included a presidential decree on gender mainstreaming, and a midterm review of the National Strategic Plan on HIV, further research on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission and a study on violence against women living with HIV, among others.  The country was also engaged with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women reporting process.

However, she said “violence against women living with HIV has become our priority”.  Indeed, in its oral statement to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Indonesian Positive Women Network had stressed that recognizing the rights of women living with HIV was not only about providing them with access to care and treatment.  It was also the duty of States to respect their dignity, protect them from violence and recognize their right to have children, she said.

Moreover, she asked the Commission, how could she herself — as a woman living with HIV and a full-time caregiver in her own family — improve her quality of life.  Governments needed to develop strategic action plans to address all the issues affecting women living with HIV, including the linkages to violence.  Women with HIV should also be supported through specific budget allocations, and with monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.  The meaningful involvement of women living with HIV should become a priority.  “We, as women living with HIV, count on you all [policymakers] … to include women living with HIV in the context of your decision-making,” she emphasized.

When the floor was opened for discussion, delegates highlighted national measures to promote shared caregiving responsibilities, citing research showing that effective home care improved family well-being.  Most caregivers, however, were female family members and, therefore, focus should be placed on reducing the burden on them.  Several relevant strategies were mentioned, with delegates noting the importance of taking a human rights-based approach.  As for improving the caregiving agenda, delegates weighed the pros and cons of remuneration.

In the context of HIV/AIDS, some speakers said every effort should be made to mitigate the burden on women and girls in home-based care schemes and to remunerate them for their work.  Given that many national health systems were fragile in the wake of the global financial crisis, it was critical to value home-based care and introduce measures to share caregiving.  It was also important to address the drivers of HIV/AIDS, including pervasive gender inequalities.   Poland’s delegate urged recognizing the key advocacy role played by UNAIDS in that regard.

On the other side of the agenda, some speakers stressed that patients’ rights must be respected, including those of undocumented migrants, who should be covered under national health and social welfare systems.

The ongoing global debate highlighted the need to maintain vigilance in addressing the gender aspects of HIV/AIDS, others said, citing the need to engage such key stakeholders as civil society, networks of people living with HIV/AIDS, and women from key populations, including sex workers and women using drugs.  Some countries provided free antiretroviral treatment, including to people in jail or without insurance.

Turning to countries in conflict, the representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo asked for assistance in addressing the needs of women who had contracted HIV/AIDS as a result of violence.  Her Government had put together a kit to help protect women from contracting the virus and also offered the “morning after pill”.  But her country needed guidance on how to provide comprehensive care for such women, especially women who did not understand how to take antiretroviral drugs because their husbands prevented them from the required information.

Uganda’s delegate drew attention to the fact that the majority of men in his country had not had HIV/AIDS tests, and yet, they controlled the practice of sex.  Also, there were more reported HIV/AIDS infections among married couples.

A representative of the International AIDS Society pointed out that, in some high-prevalence African countries, the number of female heads of households had increased.  They tended to have more children, including AIDS orphans, who were most often cared for by girls.  Pledges to overcome the barriers to gender equality must translate into adequate funding for such efforts.

Responding to a question on recruiting caregivers, Ms. SHIVUTSE said many women found themselves caring for people with HIV outside their own homes.  This occurred at a time when health systems had collapsed.  There was no recruitment process.  Caregivers recommended that their work be recognized — in terms of access to Government health services and health supplies.  They also asked for budgets be earmarked to accommodate their work and for a seat at the planning table.

Ms. RIVONA said “never stop raising awareness”, increasing the rights of women living with HIV and empowering their voices.  As for “discordant couples” she said the Government could provide free tests.  Antiretroviral treatment could be used as prevention.

Summarizing the discussion, Ms. JACOBI said caregiving had societal importance.  The care agenda was gendered, with women investing more and not being remunerated.  Gender inequality and violence against women fuelled the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Also speaking in the discussion were the representatives of Finland (also on behalf of Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden), Senegal, Burkina Faso, China, Brazil, Sudan, Philippines, Morocco, South Africa, Ecuador, Iran and Rwanda.

A representative of the delegation of the European Union also spoke.

During the second segment, Mr. MARTÍN said that many questions had been asked since 1995 about how to measure indicators related to gender, which had led to the development of certain statistical tools.  The Mexican National Institute of Statistics had the task of exploring “satellite accounts” in order to extend measurements for international comparisons.  In that regard, the role fulfilled by households in the production of necessary goods and services for guaranteeing people’s welfare was a critical indicator, despite the fact that it generally went unnoticed by society.  The two main elements of time were paid and unpaid work, he said, noting that the Mexican Government was now considering such factors as time use, economic valuation of unpaid household work and the development of a specific satellite account.

In the area of unpaid work, the largest proportion of the time was spent on care-giving, he said, adding that “there is a need to complement what is done in the market with what households can manage”.  In that regard, he suggested that the Commission ask itself:  How much does care in the home cost?  The body should consider not just hours of work, but how much that work could be worth in the marketplace.  Outlining the results of the Government’s statistical analysis, he reviewed the composition of the hours and economic value of unpaid work, including cleaning and house maintenance, providing meals, providing care and other elements.  In addition, much health-care work was conducted in the home.  It was critical to see those time distributions in terms of market value, he stressed.

The data collected had found that women performed 3 of every 4 hours of health care, he continued, with temporal health care accounting for about 29 per cent, chronic ailments accounting for about 36 per cent, and care for those with any physical or mental limitation accounting for some 35 per cent of time.  It was a challenge for statisticians to be able to measure such data precisely, he said, especially regarding the number of persons with HIV/AIDS.  In terms of chronic diseases, it was necessary to ask:  Who is providing the care?  How many cases went untreated?  And finally, what thematic approaches could be used to measure those indicators, and how could they be followed up with plans and specific actions?

Ms. TRIKI, referring to data from a “time use” survey conducted in 2005 and the challenges that her country had faced in translating them into policy, said that several previous surveys had focused on domestic time use, caregiving and the time women had spent on agricultural activities, which, despite being higher than men, remained invisible.  The 2005 survey covered professional work, social activities and legal time, among other categories.  In the framework of domestic work and caregiving, she said that women provided care eight times more than men.  In addition, those women who worked in the home spent an average of seven hours a day on domestic chores.

Asking whether the survey had achieved its aims, she said that it had provided a gender-disaggregated database which helped Tunisia to focus on budgets, policies and national accounts.  It also provided a focus on how life cycle changes affected individuals and families, and on the economic value added by that unpaid work.

Nevertheless, the process had not had a significant impact on policy in Tunisia, due largely to the degradation of the political situation and the general lack of political will, as well as the institutional void that had been seen after the toppling of the Ben Ali regime in January 2011.  Indeed, since 2005, the authoritarian nature of that regime had blocked any initiative that did not have the direct support of Ben Ali.  Since the revolution, some strides had been made by the country’s feminists, she said, noting that, in 2011, the interim Government had decided to eliminate its reservations to Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Deregulation had been seen in the job market and major demographic and social changes were taking place in Tunisia.  In that new context, the threat of rising conservativism had led women to accelerate the struggle to ensure that their rights be part of the new Constitution.  Those women, who were increasingly educated and emancipated, suffered from unemployment alongside men, but were also held back by domestic chores.  “Women had no choice but to go back to housework” in spite of national policies that aimed to rehabilitate them.  Going forward, satellite accounts should be used in national budgets and policies should further encourage equal salary distribution among men and women, she said; policies aiming at equal caregiving could also be instituted.

When the floor opened for questions and comments, delegates discussed national data on the formal and informal caregiving sector within the context of the ongoing debate to legally recognize the family caregiver.  Recognizing the centrality of unpaid care work to human welfare, some speakers said, required efforts to make that work visible, notably by carrying out time-use surveys, improved measurement tools, and the integration of unpaid care work into broader policymaking and budget frameworks.

Indeed, a first step in recognizing unpaid care work was to measure it, and in that context, Colombia’s delegate asked Mr. MARTÍN how the findings in Mexico had been used to make political decisions.

A representative of the Institute of International Social Development discussed several projects ongoing in West Bengal, India, as evidence that her organization was working to change negative stereotypes associated with HIV.  It also had introduced, probably for the first time in West Bengal, health insurance for people in rural and tribal areas, as well as provided training for women that allowed them to receive the respect of the families they cared for daily.

Responding, Mr. MARTÍN discussed the “generalist” method of using time-use surveys, saying the average pay of a specialized nurse or doctor providing similar services could be taken into account.  More broadly, he said all statistical tools required understanding, noting that microdata had been used in the time-use surveys rather than “big” statistics.  To Colombia’s query, he said data had been used to make allocations in a gender-based budget, as well as for programmes, such as childcare centres.

Ms. TRIKI, on measuring and valuing non-paid work, said that the 2005 time-use survey revealed that non-paid work at home represented 47.3 per cent of Tunisia’s gross domestic product.  The Government had used the “input” method, by which the remuneration of a substitute group of specialized persons was identified and measured.  Using that method was complicated, as it measured the non-market production of households — products and services — by giving them a “market price”.  She urged uncovering the invisible contribution women made to the economy in terms of non-paid work.

Summarizing the discussion, Ms. LOPEZ said measurements did not yet reflect the differences in various locations, especially regarding people with disabilities or women who faced discrimination because of their race or gender.  Cross-cutting information was required.  In that context, she stressed the importance of calculating the value of unpaid work, especially in situations of divorce, which could assist courts in making rulings.  Progress had been made in several regions to measure unpaid work.  The challenges included demographic changes, which increased the burden on women, and the harmonization of data.

Also speaking in the discussion were the representatives of Italy, Colombia, Switzerland, Kenya and the Philippines.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.