Autonomy important for women’s empowerment towards gender equality

Friday, 2021-04-23 07:51:25
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Gia Rai women perform a traditional Xoang dancing. (Photo for illustration: NDO/Phan Hoa)
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NDO – Autonomy and self-determination is important for women to be empowered and help them progress towards gender equality, according to a report released by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) on April 22.

The State of World Population – UNFPA's 2021 flagship report – was launched in Hanoi yesterday by UNFPA in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union Central Committee.

For the first time, a UN report focuses on the topic of bodily autonomy: the power and agency to make choices about your body, without fear of violence or having someone else decide for you.

Through this ground-breaking report, UNFPA measures both women’s power to make their own decisions about their bodies and the extent to which countries’ laws support or interfere with a woman’s right to make these decisions. The data show a strong link between decision-making power and higher levels of education.

Addressing the launch, Nguyen Tuong Lam, Secretary of the Central Youth Union said that the theme of this year's World Population Report "My body is my own" turns spotlight on bodily autonomy.

With the focus on comprehensive sexuality education and gender equality, the report calls for joint efforts in strengthening awareness among young people, young women and men on sexual and reproductive health and rights to ensure that they are equipped with knowledge and skills to make their own decisions about their reproductive health care, contraceptive use and sexual relations.

Bodily autonomy is measured through two Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) indicators, ie 5.6.1 and 5.6.2. In the report, Vietnam is cited, among 75 countries which have data, for the measurement of SDG indicator 5.6.2: The existence of laws, regulations, or policies that guarantee full and equal access to women and men aged 15 years and older to sexual and reproductive health care, information and education. Vietnam has the indicator value of 54% out of 100% achievement.

The country has not yet have a full data set for SDG indicator 5.6.1. (i.e. proportion of women aged 15-49 years who make their own informed decisions regarding sexual relations, contraceptive use and reproductive health care), but plans to make it available in coming years.

The report showed how efforts to address abuses can lead to further violations of bodily autonomy. It also suggested that real solutions must take into account the needs and experiences of those affected.

Naomi Kitahara, UNFPA Representative in Vietnam, said that a woman who has control over her body is more likely to be empowered in other spheres of her life, as she gains not only in terms of autonomy, but also through advances in health and education, income and safety. She is more likely to thrive, and so is her family, her communities, and her country, Kitahara added.

The UN official also called on to making change on socio-cultural norms of sexual and reproductive health and gender equality in Vietnam towards achievement of SDGs.

The State of World Population report is UNFPA’s annual flagship publication. Published yearly since 1978, it shines a light on emerging issues in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights, bringing them into the mainstream and exploring the challenges and opportunities they present for international development.