Poverty has a woman’s face. Global prosperity and peace will only be achieved once all the world’s people are empowered to order their own lives and provide for themselves and their families. Societies where women are more equal stand a much greater chance of achieving the Millennium Goals by 2015. Every single Goal is directly related to women’s rights, and societies were women are not afforded equal rights as men can never achieve development in a sustainable manner. In most developing countries, gender inequality is a major obstacle to meeting the MDG targets. In fact, achieving the goals will be impossible without closing the gaps between women and men in terms of capacities, access to resources and opportunities, and vulnerability to violence and conflict.
Yet the gap between rhetoric and reality persists: the 2005 primary and secondary school parity target will likely be missed. But even if it were achieved, it is hardly sufficient to ensure the full participation of women in the political and economic lives of their countries. Much more is needed: full reproductive health rights and access to services, guarantee of equal property rights and access to work, affirmative action to increase political representation, and an end to violence against women and girls. To realize the MDGs, governments and their partners must seriously and systematically ‘engender’ efforts to achieve all the goals. But today, the gender focus is largely limited to the gender equality, maternal mortality, and HIV/AIDS goals – leaving out critical development issues such as the feminization of poverty, the preponderance of female-headed households among the hungry, and the lopsided impact of environmental degradation on women (particular in terms of time spent gathering fuel and hauling water).
B. The Targets
Target 3a: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015
- Ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education
- Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector
- Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament
C. Did You Know?
- Of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty around the world, 70% are women. (Source: World Revolution)
- Women do about 66% of the world’s work in return for less than 5% of its income. (Source: Women’s International Network)
- In the least developed countries nearly twice as many women over age 15 are illiterate compared to men. (Source: UNFPA)
- Two-thirds of children denied primary education are girls, and 75% of the world’s 876 million illiterate adults are women. (Source: AskWoman)
- Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, produce half of the world’s food, and yet earn only 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property. (Source :World Development Indicators, 1997, Womankind Worldwide)