The first Monday of October every year (this year it falls on October 6, 1975) is observed as Universal Children’s Day and festive celebrations, sports, events, parades and special events are arranged in children’s homes, orphanages, schools and hospitals. Elders arrange events to focus the atten-tion of governments and the general public on the needs and rights of the child. To create universality of the occasion, the children’s day is being celebrated since October, 1953 in 115 countries.
This year the International Union for Child Welfare and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) have selected “Today’s Girls— Tomorrow’s Women” as the theme to coincide with International Women’s Year—as 1975 has been designated by the United Nations.
Earlier, Declaration of Emergency for Children by UNICEF brought to attention the grim situation of 400 to 500 million children in developing countries due to the economic crisis prevailing in the world. As a result of this Declaration, UNICEF organized a coordinated programme to help the children of the most under develo-ped countries and launched special food/ nutrition and health oriented schemes to protect the lives of children in the 25 worst affected countries. The special assistance programmes will amount to approximately 120 million dollars. It was estimated that at one time there were some 10 million severely malnourished children in the world with a high risk of mortality.
From the general resources funds amounting to 128.8 million dollars in 1974. UNICEF assisted 106,800 institutions! centres with supplies and equipment and provided training to 219,400 personnel in child health, child nutrition, social services for children, education and vocational preparation, and completed 48,900 water supply system and 20,300 excreta disposal schemes.
The 30 nation UNICEF Executive Board (of which Pakistan is a member) in their meeting held in May, 1975 committed a total fund of 97.4 million dollars. for programmes for benefiting children in 105 countries. In addition, UNICEF will also assist projects in 18 regions of under-developed countries. One of the major features in the pattern of assistance is the continued effort to fit UNICEF assistance into countries of agreed priorities for the needs of children. The share for East Asia and Pakistan Region has been approved for committing 31,735,000 dollars and a programme of services for children in Pakistan will be undertaken at 4,100,000 dollars for 1975-1976.
UNICEF is already furthering the pro-gramme to help improve the status and condition of women and girls, as an import-ant means to bring overall benefits to children such as installation of clean drink-ing water supplies in villages where the fetching of water from distant sources presents a heavy part of women’s daily workload; maternal and child health programmes; formal and informal education; community development for women and large number of training programmes.
There are approximately 1,988,000,000 women and girls in the world. This covers half the world’s population. The contribution of these women and girls is essential for the progress of the society.
Tomorrow’s women will not be able to take full advantage of opportunities for betterment of society unless present day girls receive adequate nutrition, health care. relief from excessive drudgery, psychologi-cal encouragement and above all, access to training and education. Literacy & training are the first steps to acquiring broader education. It is a pity that the majority of the world’s 800,000,000 illiterates, are females 90% of rural women and 60% urban women.
Coinciding with International Women’s Year, the Executive Director of UNICEF, Mr. Henry Labouisse, in his recommenda-tions to the 1975 Board while emphasizing that women constitute an important human potential force for social and economic development, has further laid emphasis upon their training and education at the village level. Pilot demonstration prog-ramme projects will be undertaken in Africa, Arab and Asian countries, includ-ing Pakistan, in order to identify the exist-ing deterrents to fuller participation of women in development programmes and to find ways to overcome them.
Last year, the theme “A future for Every Child”, was adopted in consonance with World Population Year which culmi-nated in focussing the attention of people and Governments to population problems and the needs of the individual child.
This year the emphasis is more on girls as 1975 has been designated as the Interna-tional Women’s Year. The mother is not only the care-taker of the child, but also as a human being entitled to her own rights and dignity. So UNICEF continues to look for avenues which will assist to bring women and girls into the mainstream of the development process as a corollary to improving the condition of the child.