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Progress for Women is Slow and Unequal: UN

UN: Progress for Women Is Slow, Uneven, at Risk of Reversals

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Women equality
U.N. Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, pictured in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in November 2019, says that “we see still .. the possibility to change and the possibility to move forward" on issues of women's well-being. VOA

By Margaret Besheer

Women are making gains globally in several areas, but 25 years after demanding action at a landmark conference in Beijing, the United Nations says progress has been slow and uneven and could even be reversed.

In a report released ahead of International Women’s Day, which is Sunday, the U.N. says men still overwhelmingly hold elected positions, make more money and have access to better jobs and education.

In addition, women in many parts of the world are still trying to overcome societal obstacles, including child marriage, illiteracy, domestic violence and lack of access to family planning. Rural and indigenous women face even more hurdles, in addition to discrimination and deeper poverty.

Seize the chances

“We see still, even within these conditions, the possibility to change and the possibility to move forward,” U.N. Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said at the launch of the report Thursday. “We want to seize those opportunities.” Some countries already have. The report found that Latin America is one of the few regions where women’s participation in the labor force has increased over the past 20 years.

Women equality
Women celebrate after registering the Feminist Alternative Party (PAF) in the Electoral Service and starting the legal process to become a political party, at the Electoral Service office in Santiago, Chile. VOA

“Countries like Chile and Uruguay have boosted child care coverage because they have recognized that women’s economic empowerment will not become a reality if families are lacking that kind of support,” said Silke Staab, research and data specialist for U.N. Women. “This has allowed them to catch up or even leapfrog some developed countries where child care coverage has stagnated.”

While much of sub-Saharan Africa struggles to provide access to family planning, two countries — Ethiopia and Rwanda — have made it a priority. In the last 20 years, access to contraception has grown by 40%, and the gaps between urban and rural access also have narrowed.

Investment in infrastructure, staff

The U.N. says it is because these governments have invested in health infrastructure, trained staff and improved both the quality of and access to health services.

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While there have been advances in keeping more girls in school, getting laws on the books to help and protect women and nearly halving the rate of maternal mortality, work must be accelerated on closing and narrowing the remaining gender gaps, the U.N. said. “What is needed now is a concerted drive to scale up, expand and deepen policies and programs that can move the needle on women’s rights to the benefit of all,” said U.N. Women’s Staab. (VOA)

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Marijuana Intake Can Impair Fertility in Females, Says Study

This implies lower quality and lower fertilisation capability, therefore lower fertility in the end

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Marijuana
Marijuana, or cannabis, is the most commonly used recreational drug by people of reproductive age. Pixabay

Female eggs exposed a psychoactive ingredient in marijuana have an impaired ability to produce viable embryos and are significantly less likely to result in a viable pregnancy, claims a study.

Marijuana, or cannabis, is the most commonly used recreational drug by people of reproductive age The rise in marijuana use has occurred at the same time that the percentage of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) ingredient in the drug has increased.

Currently, patients seeking infertility treatments are advised against cannabis use, but the scientific evidence backing this statement is weak.

“This makes it difficult for physicians to properly advise patients undergoing in vitro fertilization,” said study researcher Megan Misner from University of Guelph in Canada.

In the study, published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society, researchers treated cow oocytes, or female eggs, with concentrations of THC equivalent to therapeutic and recreational doses.

The oocytes were collected and matured into five groups: untreated, control, low THC, mid THC and high THC. For the findings, the eggs’ developmental rates and gene expression were measured.

The researchers evaluated the ability of embryos to reach critical stages of development at specific time points. With higher concentrations of THC, they found a significant decrease and delay in the ability of the treated oocytes to reach these checkpoints.

“This is a key indicator in determining the quality and developmental potential of the egg,” Misner said. THC exposure led to a significant decrease in the expression of genes called connexins, which are present at increased levels in higher quality oocytes.

Marijuana, Cannabis, Weed, Bud, Green, Pot, Medical
Female eggs exposed a psychoactive ingredient in marijuana have an impaired ability to produce viable embryos and are significantly less likely to result in a viable pregnancy, claims a study. Pixabay

Poorer quality oocytes, with lower connexin expression levels, have been shown to lead to a poorer embryo development. ”

This embryo would be less likely to proceed past the first week of development, and thus lead to infertility,” Misner said. According to the researchers, preliminary data also showed THC affected the activity of a total of 62 genes in the treatment groups compared with the non-treated groups.

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“This implies lower quality and lower fertilisation capability, therefore lower fertility in the end,” she said. (IANS)