The United Nations recently issued The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015, the latest assessment of progress towards the eight MDGs. In short, they have had mixed results. This article is part of a blog series reflecting on the MDGs and the U.N. report. These are produced in partnership with our colleagues at RESULTS (our parent organization).
MDG 3 is focused on gender equality and empowering women. Many MFIs are actively working to address gender inequality and to empower women in their own corner of the world. A dozen organizations have so far made a Campaign Commitment specifically targeting women. For example, Grama Vidiyal launched a Commitment will help 500,000 clients in India with their Health Service and Development Program that provides sanitary napkins for women. Crecer (Bolivia) committed to continue to prioritize services for female clients. CRECER has 152,000 clients and will grow 3 percent per year to reach 166,000 clients by the end of 2017 while maintaining a rate of 80 percent women clients.
>>Kristin Smith, former intern for the 100 Million Project
MDG 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
As the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) rapidly approaches, we are called to evaluate the significant and substantial progress made across the board in addressing the root causes of global poverty. The final MDG report, recently released by the United Nations (U.N.), documents the global 15-year effort to achieve the aspirational goals set out in the Millennium Declaration, highlighting the vast successes while acknowledging the substantial gaps that remain.
The number of people living in extreme poverty, the proportion of undernourished people in developing regions, and the global under-five mortality rate have all decreased by more than half; however, despite these remarkable statistics, millions are still being left behind due to their sex, age, disability, ethnicity, or geographic location.
As we aim to continue substantial advances in reducing global poverty through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, or “Global Goals”), we must renew our efforts to focus on the most vulnerable populations.
Target 3.A: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015
The importance of achieving gender equality arguably extends into every facet of society. MDG 3 aimed to address parity in education, political participation, and economic empowerment and emphasized the crucial role of women in achieving the other seven MDGs as well.
At the Council on Foreign Relations in 2004, economist Gene Sperling noted that “girls’ education is an integral part to virtually every aspect of development, and what is just striking is the amount of hard, rigorous academic data that is not only about what girls’ education does in terms of returns for income and for growth, but in terms of health, AIDS prevention, the empowerment of women, and prevention of violence against women.”
Women are proven to be key contributors to large development payoffs such as increased economic productivity and reduced maternal and infant mortality. This final report reiterates that “the education of women and girls has a positive multiplier effect on progress across all development areas.”
Indicator 3.1 Ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education
In reviewing key statistics highlighted in the report, progress towards MDG 3 seems promising, yet further analysis paints a rather dreary picture. While the developing regions as a whole have eliminated gender disparity in primary, secondary, and tertiary education, this comes only as a result of averaging progress with the few prosperous regions. In South Asia, for example, female primary school enrollment has surpassed boys’: from 74 girls for every 100 boys in 1990 to 103 girls for every 100 boys today.
However, looking at the Gender Parity Index (GPI), defined as the ratio of the female gross enrollment ratio to the male gross enrollment ratio for each level of education, certain regions have backtracked on progress since 2000. GPI has decreased at the primary level in East Asia, at the secondary level in Oceania, and at the tertiary level in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Indicator 3.2 Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector
Women still face discrimination in access to work and economic assets, and they lack sufficient representation in public and private decision-making roles. The most prevalent barriers to women’s employment, as noted in the report, are household responsibilities and cultural constraints.
Indicator 3.3 Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament
Since the launch of the MDGs, women have gained significant ground in political representation. The average proportion of women in parliament has nearly doubled over the past 20 years; however, there remains significant work to be done with only one in five members being women. Organizations like UN Women help focus future development efforts on including women as a key demographic in global development, as poverty remains a heavily feminized condition.
Onward with the Global Goals for Sustainable Development
Despite uneven progress and persistent inequalities, the MDGs helped to lay an ambitious framework for the long-term effort of tackling the root causes of global poverty.
The Global Goals for Sustainable Development, or SDGs, are intended to build on the successes of the MDGs and tackling problems where they fell short. While some people complain that there are too many goals, they have been designed with an eye toward promoting concise and reasonable actions. Perhaps that requires 17 goals and 169 indicators. In analyzing the draft language of the successor Global Goals, it is important to note the widespread presence of important phrasings such as “inclusive” and “for all.”
UN Women advocated for a stand-alone goal to achieve gender equality, similar to the MDGs. SDG 5 is “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls;” this means tackling violence against women as well as ensuring equal economic and leadership opportunities, property rights, equal policies, social protection, and more. This singularly focused goal is crucial to creating a ripple effect for the integration of gender equality throughout the other goals.
Reaching full equality and empowerment for women and girls remains a crucial requirement to achieving full and sustainable development.