The MDGs and Gender Equality
The third goal of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals is â€œPromote gender equality and empower women.â€ This includes equality in education, labor rights, health care, and legal and political access.
Often in the development context, even in situations where all indicators point to progress, women and girls lag behind. For example, a 2008 UNESCO report found that out of an estimated 774million adults who lack basic literacy, 64% are women.
Importance of education
As is often the case in the long-term development context, education is the foundation for real progress. The stated target of goal 3 is, in fact, to eliminate gender disparity in all levels of education no later than 2015.
Girls who receive an education have a higher income earning potential than those who do not, between 10% and 20% more for every year of education they complete. With higher income comes a healthier family, as women can buy better food for their children. They can afford to keep their children in school longer, instead of keeping them home to work. Educated women are also more likely to participate in politics, not just by voting but also by running for public office.
While education is important in the long-term for women in developing countries, they face many pressing short-term issues as well.
Women, whether they have received an education or not, face great discrimination in the work place. They lack equal pay for equal work, lack maternity leave, face sexual harassment, or are not allowed to hold the same jobs or do the same kinds of work as men. A report from UNICEF in 2007 found that while women perform 66% of the worldâ€™s â€œworkâ€ and produce 50% of all food, they earn just 10% of the income and own only 1% of the property.
If women are to meet the short-term metrics of the MDGs, significant political and economic reform must take place in many developing countries. There is hope for change though. CGAP, an independent policy and research center housed at the World Bank, says the following about what happens when women are the focus of micro-finance development programs:
“Women often become more assertive and confident. In regions where women’s mobility is strictly regulated, women have often become more visible and are better able to negotiate the public sphere. Women involved in microfinance may also own assets, including land and housing, and play a stronger role in decision making. In some programs that have been active over many years, there are even reports of declining levels of violence against women.” (via CGAP.org)
How you can help
As I am sure you have noticed, Jolkona launched a new campaign with the Seattle International Foundation to provide grassroots leadership training to women from around the world. Though the Groupon deal that helped launch the campaign has ended, you can still contribute through the Jolkona project page.
Here are a list of additional projects Jolkona currently supports that are in line with the Millennium Development Goal of promoting gender equality and empowering women.
- Provide education to the females of Afghanistan
- Support women farmers in Sudan
- Ignite girlsâ€™ leadership in Pakistan
For more information on the work the United Nations is doing focused on goal 3, take a look at the UN Women MDG page.