Gender Equality

MDG 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

Goal 3.A – Eliminate Gender disparity and education

3.A - Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015

The following is from the UN Millennium Development Goals web site

  • The world has achieved equality in primary education between girls and boys, but only 2 out of 130 countries have achieved that target at all levels of education

  • Globally, 40 out of every 100 wage-earning jobs in the non-agricultural sector were held by women in 2011. This is a significant improvement since 1990

  • In many countries, gender inequality persists and women continue to face discrimination in access to education, work and economic assets, and participation in government. For example, in every developing region, women tend to hold less secure jobs than men, with fewer social benefits

  • Violence against women continues to undermine efforts to reach all goals

  • Poverty is a major barrier to secondary education, especially among older girls

  • Women are largely relegated to more vulnerable forms of employment

Fast Facts

  • Steady progress has been made towards equal access of girls and boys to education, though disparities remain between regions and education levels

  • Globally, the share of women employed outside of agriculture rose to 40 per cent but rose to only 20 percent in Southern Asia, Western Asia, and Northern Africa

  • The global share of women in parliament continues to rise slowly and reached 20 per cent in 2012 – far short of gender parity, though an increase of one percentage point was seen during 2012

Disparities are greatest at the university level. In Southern Asia, only 77 girls per 100 boys are enrolled in tertiary education. The situation is most extreme in sub-Saharan Africa, where the gender gap in enrolment has actually widened from 66 girls per 100 boys in 2000 to 61 girls per 100 boys enrolled in 2011

Poverty is the main cause of unequal access to education, particularly for girls of secondary-school age. Women and girls in many parts of the world are forced to spend many hours fetching water, and girls often do not attend school because of a lack of decent sanitation facilities. Child marriage and violence against girls are also significant barriers to education. Girls with disabilities are also less likely to go to school. If they get pregnant, many girls drop out of school.

Affirmative Action continues to be the key driver of progress for women.

Women’s share of paid employment outside the agricultural sector has increased slowly from 35 to 40 per cent between 1990 and 2010, though it remains under 20 per cent in Western Asia, Northern Africa and Southern Asia. Globally, women occupy only 25 per cent of senior management positions.

What is Working

  • Somalia: UNICER-supported program offers a comprehensive scholarship package to help overcome the barriers that prevent girls from enrolling in and staying in school.

  • Brazil: UN women, UNICEF, and UN-Habitat launched an online website to help address the problem of sexual violence in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. This provides abuse hotline numbers and information about rights, as well as the responsibilities and locations of Specialized Women’s Attention Centers, which provide psychological, social and even legal support.

  • Rwanda: UN Women is working with 15 cooperatives to increase women’s participation in agriculture and decision-making in their families and communities. Women farmers are trained in budgeting skills and male farmers and district officials are being encouraged to better include and provide for women.

  • Yemen: World Bank recruited and trained more than 1,000 female teachers to work in rural areas and granted conditional cash transfers to encourage parents to allow girls to attend school.

  • UN Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) actively promotes girls’ education and gender equality. It works with civil society actors and governments in select countries to support key legislative and policy changes that are making education more accessible to girls in Nepal, and in Uganda among other countries.

  • UNESCO partners with Procter & Gamble to empower girls through literacy programs. This partnership has provided educational kits and digital resources to train and support teachers who then devoted many hours of literacy and life skills teaching to girls in Senegal, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, and the United Republic of Tanzania, with partners including the Packard Foundation and the GEMS Foundation.

The following is from the book “The Millennium Development Goals Report – 2013” published by the United Nations

In sub-Saharan Africa, the net enrolment rate for girls has risen substantially – from 47 per cent to 75 per cent between 1990 and 2011. Over the same period, the rate for boys rose from 58 per cent to 79 per cent.

More women than men are enrolled in tertiary education in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Caucasus and Central Asia, Eastern Asia, Northern Africa and South-Eastern Asia.

Women are gaining ground in the labor market, though not in all regions and not in all areas of work.

Women’s access to paid employment is an indication of their integration into the market economy. As women benefit from more regular income, they are more likely to achieve greater autonomy, self-reliance in the household and in their personal development, and decision-making power.

In the majority of countries, women’s share in public sector employment is much higher (at least 5 percentage points) than in other non-agricultural sectors. In fact, in many countries it exceeds 50 per cent. Women are, however, more likely to work in local rather than central government offices.

Only six parliamentary chambers in the world today have no women members.

It is widely recognized that increasing women’s bargaining power within the household contributes to improvements in children’s nutrition, survival rates and literacy. Yet recent surveys in a sample of 37 developing countries, mostly in Africa, show that women’s decision-making power at home remains significantly lower than that of men when it comes to large household purchases, visiting family, relatives and friends, and women’s own health.

Two-thirds of the world’s 799 million illiterate adults ages 15 and over are women.

Uneducated girls are more at risk than boys to become marginalized. They are more vulnerable to exploitation. They are more likely than educated girls to contract HIV/AIDS, which spreads twice as quickly among uneducated girls than among girls that have even some schooling.

Women earn only one tenth of the world’s income and own less than one per cent of property, households without a male head are at special risk of impoverishment. These women will also be less likely to immunize their children and know how to help them survive.

In some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, HIV prevalence among teenage girls is five times higher than among teenage boys. The danger of infection is highest among the poorest and least powerful, particularly children who live among violence, suffer sexual exploitation or have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS.


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