The third of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women. This goal, along with its seven companions, is planned to be reached by 2015.
Though the goal will not be met by the deadline, some progress has been made. According to the World Bank, these are some of the current results:
- Two countries out of 130 have achieved gender equality at all levels of education
- 16.2 percent of ministerial-level positions are held by women (2010)
- 40 percent of wage-earning jobs in the non-agricultural sector were held by women in 2011
- One percent of global agriculture credit goes to African women
These quantitative improvements in gender equality are significant; however, many world leaders call for gender equality to take the central role in the post-2015 development agenda. These leaders say the post-2015 agenda will fail if gender quality and empowerment of women are not at the core.
Research demonstrates that global poverty can notably decrease by empowering women. For instance, countries that invest in promoting the social and economic status of women tend to have lower poverty rates. Therefore, global poverty has a direct correlation to gender inequality.
How does gender equality reduce global poverty?
Education: Through equal access to education, women have fewer children and are able to contribute more to the labor market, which in turn provides more income for their family. Moreover, educated women tend to prioritize the education of their sons and daughters.
Healthcare: When women are knowledgeable about healthcare and have access to healthcare services, they are able to make healthier decisions and take better care of their children. This reduces incidents and spreading of preventable diseases.
Ability to make decisions: When women can negotiate their reproductive health decisions with men, this exercise of their rights leads to an increased decision-making role within families and communities that benefits all.
Family planning: Through gender equality, women are able to determine the number, timing and spacing of their children. As families become smaller in number, each family has an increased likelihood of being able to care for their needs through their limited income. Additionally, maternal mortality and morbidity rates decrease with fewer pregnancies.
It is notable that gender equality should take priority in the post-2015 development agenda.
How is gender quality reached though? Possibilities include:
- Educating girls
- Increasing literacy rates among women
- Increasing early childhood development interventions
- Increasing women’s labor force participation and strengthening labor policies affecting women
- Improving women’s access to credit, land and other resources
- Promoting women’s political rights and participation
- Expanding reproductive health programs and family support policies
However, according to the United Nations, gender inequality persists and women continue to face discrimination in access to education, work and economic assets and participation in government.
World leaders, such as Lady Armstrong, a United Kingdom representative on the Federal Council for the anti-poverty organization Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO,) says these types of broad goals do not achieve gender equality because they are vague and do not state what should be done or how. As such, gender equality goals need to look different in the post-2015 development agenda.
It is imperative countries commit to specific, measurable outcomes for gender equality and empowerment of women to become prevalent around the world. VSO not only recommends a measurable approach to achieve gender equality, but has also put forward the start of a strategy.
VSO proposes the overall goal of gender equality and women’s empowerment remain while suggesting that the goal include a combination of qualitative and quantitative indicators to track real change. One example is to measure public perceptions around female leaders. VSO’s research demonstrates that women will not be equally represented in parliaments until 2065, based on current trends, and will not make up half of world leaders until 2134. One may ask what the general perception is though.
The current MDG’s only measure how many women hold leadership roles. On the other hand, VSO, along with other world leaders, know that true leadership is not only measured by having a seat at the table, but also by having a respected and equal voice in that position. The proposed qualitative and quantitative measures would provide that vital data, providing an accurate progression of gender equality and empowerment of women.
Gender inequality is a worldwide problem and largely contributes to global poverty. Furthermore, gender equality demands more attention in the post-2015 development agenda along with the institutionalization of measurable goals as we move forward.
– Caressa Kruth