The theme "Building families based on partnership" was suggested for the observance of the International Day of Families in recognition of the global priority objective of achieving gender equality as a basic human right and as a condition for people centered development.
In the context of families, partnership may be explored from a policy approach as bringing together the different significant players (partners) in order to develop and implement policies that contribute to strengthening families. Looked at within the family unit, partnership may be interpreted as the sharing of roles and responsibilities of family members in order to contribute to the well-being of its individual members and to the well-being of the family unit. This partnership implies inclusiveness of all family members without discrimination based on age, gender and ability.
A significant aspect of partnership and a central element to social integration in society in general, and particularly in families, is the dimension of gender. The prescription of rigid gender roles, rights and responsibilities in families is rooted in cultural assumptions and widely accepted social norms, and it is affected by social and economic variables. Being aware of common general trends, gender roles and their changes must be interpreted in the social and cultural contexts in which they evolve".
Gender relations are the social, economic, and political relations that determine gender identity of both men and women. Gender relations shape the limits of what a women or a man may undertake in the family or in public life. They also frame male and female behaviour, responsibilities and entitlements. Gender relations are imbedded in all social, cultural, economic and political systems, at all levels. Relationships between spouses, children and partners, employers and employees, and among community members are all influenced by the actual dominant model of gender relations.
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In a larger context, the role of families as producers and consumers is a vital one. The relationship between families and the workplace, gender equality in employment, child care, the distribution of domestic work in the home and caring responsibilities for vulnerable members of society are all interlinked. Families play a pivotal role in ensuring the well-being of society and should provide an environment where all members--indistinctively of sex, age or ability-- should enjoy the full measure of their human rights as a precondition for development.
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Policies and programmes at all levels affect families and their ability to facilitate and promote partnership and gender equality. Family impact considerations need to be incorporated in policy decisions and development. Even if policies do not directly address families and gender equality, organizations and agencies, governmental and non-governmental, national or international must be encouraged to recognize that their decisions and actions will usually have an impact on families, and on how families will be formed, how well they functions, and the degree of partnership in them.
Following the International Year of the Family in 1994, there has been an increasing recognition that since men play a key role in the dynamics of intra-familial decision-making, a clearer understanding of these processes is needed, without which equality for women and the rights of children will not be achieved . Therefore, the vulnerability in the status of women and children in families, exacerbated by underlying stereotypical gender roles, should be addressed through dialogue and action that include males [and females] through their life cycle.
Some general assumptions and factors central to building families based on partnership need to be examined and understood by men and women equally if adequate measures and actions are to be taken, and roles are to be changed. Among them are the assumption that women will automatically carry the workload and care for children, and the role of men in family and community decision-making, in influencing the nutritional and psychosocial development of children, and in sharing financial responsibility for family welfare.
The role of males in families needs to develop new dimensions if they are to contribute significantly to make more equitable the role of women, and improve in a sustainable way the stability of family life. Achieving true partnership between men and women in family life requires an equal sharing of rights and responsibilities within the family and in public life. At the same time, contributions of men and women in all spheres, including families, should be supported and regarded as of equal worth.
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"Families: The Heart of Society. World Social Summit for Development" United Nations Department of Public Information. August 1994.
"Child and dependent care, including the sharing of work and family responsibilities" Report of the Secretary General. United Nations. New York, 1995.
"Suggested themes for the annual International Day of Families" . Fifth Ad Hoc Inter-Agency Meeting.
Indicative Guide for Action of Family Issues. pp. 20-23. United Nations. Austria, 1995.
Lupri, Eugen. "The Changing Positions of Women and Men in Comparative Perspective" in The Changing Position of Women in Family and Society: a Cross National Comparison. International Studies in Sociology and Social Anthropology. Volume XXXIV.
Richardson, John. Achieving Gender Equality in Families: The Role of Males. Innocenti Global Seminar Summary Report, 8-18 May 1995 Kingston Jamaica. UNICEF, 1995.
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