Lies, damn lies, and statistics at UNICEF
By Carey Roberts
At first I assumed UNICEF director Ann Veneman had been terribly misquoted.
This was the statement the media attributed to her: "We know that women do about 66% of the work in the world, they produce 50% of the food, but earn 5% of the income and own 1% of the property." But then I checked, and that's what she had said. It was right on the UNICEF website.
Veneman's message was clear: Around the world, men are lazy dolts who lord over their down-trodden wives.
But I was a skeptical. So I called the UNICEF press office and asked for the source of those damning statistics. Press aide Kate Donovan cheerfully reassured me that Veneman is "very picky about her facts" and promised she'd get back to me. She never did.
Google to the rescue. Many mouse-clicks later I arrived at another UN web page devoted to the Millenium Development Goals.
Ah ha! -- right there on the page 2 was the elusive quote, along with its source: Womankind Worldwide.
So then I contacted Womankind Worldwide, asking for the exact name of the source document. And here's the long-awaited response from a Julia Czastka: "I can tell you that the facts given in this quote are from the UN."
Let's see … Group A relies on Group B, Group B bounces us over to Group C, and Group C sends us back to Group A. In my neck of the woods, that's called recycling the trash. Ms. Veneman, may we consider your statement a candidate for the Phony Statistics Hall of Fame?
While I was perusing the UNICEF website, I couldn't help but notice some other questionable claims.
A March 8 press release quoted Veneman as saying, "Violence against women is the extreme form of inequality." So how does she reconcile that statement with the UN's World Report Violence and Health, which showed 14% of men die from violence-related causes, compared to only 7% of women? Or the recent survey showing women are twice as likely as men to initiate partner abuse?
And a 2005 News Note claims, "Violence in the family affects mainly girls ..." Wrong again, UNICEF.
According to a compilation of 172 studies by Lytton and Romney, it's boys who are consistently subjected to more physical punishment than girls. (This News Note also maligns the traditional family, recklessly claiming that "values promoted by the family … use violence as their main tool.")
Remember the Yiddish proverb, "A half-truth is a whole lie"? If that is true, then UNICEF, which now views the world through the lens of patriarchal oppression, is immersed in a complete and utter lie.
The UNICEF home page informs us, "Women's political power is growing," as if that's somehow going help kids get their tetanus shots and clean drinking water. Its website recounts the woes of girls: educational attainment, female circumcision, abuse, and discrimination. It even has a newsletter called Girls Too!
But nowhere does UNICEF admit to the inequities facing boys: higher rates of suicide, undernourishment, and low healthcare utilization. Not a word about the 12-year-old lads forced into armed combat, or kids sent off to become camel jockeys in the Persian Gulf.
Remember, we're talking about BOYS – those impish lads who are made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails. It's those tykes who trek through the woods in search of a handful of wilted daisies to proudly present to their moms.
Over the last three years I have chronicled the steady descent of UNICEF into the slough of gender advocacy. These reports have documented how UNICEF has systematically:
UNICEF has become the target of blistering critiques. In 2004 the Catholic Family and Human Rights Group charged, "Radical feminism has come to define the current UNICEF." Two years ago the prestigious Lancet journal accused UNICEF of "shamefully" failing to develop an effective child survival strategy.
But the gals at UNICEF have turned a deaf ear on their critics.
Recently the Heritage Foundation released an analysis titled "The Status of United Nations Reform." Its sobering conclusion reads: "There has been quite a bit of smoke on reform, but very little fire … Without tying reform to financial incentives, the sound and fury of the current U.N. reform effort, as with past efforts, will prove grossly insufficient."
Ambassador Bolton, we need to make UNICEF the first example of our towering resolve and moral disgust.
Carey Roberts is a Staff Writer for The New Media Alliance. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!