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PIA Press Release
2008/11/13

Report raises need for harmonizing culture and development

Manila (13 November) -- A new United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) recent report stressed the need to harmonize culture and countries' development efforts to further promote rights of people, particularly women.

UNFPA's State of the World Population 2008 report focuses on culture, gender and human rights as studies show women continue bearing the brunt of decades-old cultural practices and beliefs that still prevail but which violate their rights as people.

Authorities consider such human rights violation detrimental to countries' progress.

"Culture is at the center of development," UNFPA Representative Suneeta Mukherjee said Wednesday during the report's Philippine launch at EDSA Shangrila in Mandaluyong City.

UNFPA, an agency committed to advancing human rights worldwide, spearheaded the launch with Commission on Human Rights Commissioner Cecilia Rachel Quisumbing, National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women Chairperson Myrna Yao as well as Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Esperanza Cabral.

"The report can help authorities develop better policies and programs on women's rights," Quisumbing said.

To bring about more rational development and better protection of women, UNFPA is promoting a culturally sensitive approach that harmonizes culture and human rights expectations.

Such can be done through measures like partnering with guardians of cultural norms and policies, building capacity of communities to promote females' rights and engaging men in designing and implementing programs on curbing violence against women.

The academe, program implementors, policy makers, media and private sector must help promote the culturally sensitive approach to development, UNFPA noted.

UNFPA is urging countries to adapt this approach, noting studies show deep-rooted cultural beliefs to sustain gender inequality and gender-based violence is perpetrated through socio-cultural norms and traditions.

Culture also influences the manner of addressing women's health, domestic concerns, security and other aspects of their lives, UNFPA continued.

Yao is supporting UNFPA's culturally sensitive approach.

"Cultural sensitivity must be understood to help eliminate all forms of violence against women," she said during the launch.

She also noted the approach is timely as women generally still lack resources at their disposal and have limited participation in making decisions that will change their lives.

"We must consider cultural diversity to develop more effective human rights strategies," she said.

Cabral is concerned about the Catholic Church's opposition to the reproductive health bill proposed in Congress to enhance government's population management.

"The Philippines is growing at about 1.8 million people annually but there are efforts instead to promote natural family planning to the exclusion of more effective contraceptives," she noted. "We need to change along with the times. As the report states, people made culture and can bring about change."

She noted Filipinos are changing as a survey show about 71 percent of them support the reproductive health bill despite the Catholic Church's opposition to it.

"We can't continue living in a culture that stubbornly clings to beliefs that derail the country's development," she said. (PNA) [top]

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