Some countries have taken major strides to improve the rights and reproductive health of women but more must be done to meet goals set at a U.N. conference a decade ago, according to a report released Tuesday. Twenty-three countries including Bangladesh, Nepal, Peru and the Philippines have made the most progress since the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo but other nations have done little. Burkina Faso and Cameroon have lost ground, said the report presented at the three-day meeting to assess how much had changed by the 10th anniversary of the Cairo conference. "Investing in sexual and reproductive health and rights transforms lives: a woman's life, her family's life, and in turn, the social and economic life of her entire country," said Amy Coen, president of the U.S.-based research and advocacy group Population Action International which released the report with FCI and the International Planned Parenthood Federation. About 700 health care experts, leaders and activists from 109 countries were attending the meeting organized by a coalition of non-government organizations, informs Reuter. According to Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Women's political, educational and sexual rights are making progress in many countries. But the world needs to do much more to lift the oppression of women if it is going to bring greater sanity to population growth. Ten years after an international conference in Cairo, a report has found that some countries have made considerable gains across a series of measures. Among those advancing: Bangladesh, India, Algeria, the Philippines and Peru. For some countries, the progress has been particularly notable in access to sexual health services, such as contraception. And many more girls attend secondary school, which is a key indicator of whether women will have the social, economic and health opportunities that tend to reduce population growth. It's not difficult to understand why women remain the primary focus of sexual and reproductive health policy. Family planning initiatives have traditionally been included in programmes that deal with the health of mothers and children. In an environment where the funding for such initiatives is often scarce, there are fears that introducing additional programmes for men would place an unbearable strain on resources. Certain research has indicated that men are more open to discussions about family planning than popular beliefs would suggest. But, says Sinding, there's no denying that efforts to extend sexual health programmes to men must also do battle with deeply-rooted beliefs about male sexuality that link it to conquest, dominance and multiple partnerships. In fact, a variety of biological factors make women more vulnerable to infection by the AIDS virus than men - something that has seen the ratio of HIV-positive women to men increase in Africa, the continent most affected by the pandemic. According to the Joint United Nations, programme on HIV/AIDS, women now account for almost 60 percent of persons aged 15 to 49 who are living with HIV (this age group comprises the most economically-active people in a society). In the 15 to 24 age bracket, women account for 75 percent of HIV-positive persons. Confronted with such statistics, delegates to the London meeting say that programmes on sexual and reproductive health should focus on the youth as far as possible. "I believe that, in the case of men past the age of youth, education and gender equality is difficult - and I think we need innovation there, to bring them along", publishes AllAfrica.
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