Gender: the hidden dimension of Millennium Development Goals
World leaders have been at the UN in New York this week to assess, and hopefully breathe new life into, efforts to achieve the so-called Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Most of the goals are in danger of being missed. Is there a way to jumpstart efforts to make the deadline by 2015?
Gender may hold part of the answer. The third goal explicitly aims to “promote gender equality and empower women” (MDG3), but research by the OECD Development Centre suggests that gender issues have a direct and profound impact on several other MDG targets. Tackling gender would help reach other goals too.
The OECD Development Centre has developed a framework to monitor the discrimination against women by social institutions. These so-called SIGI indicators (Social Institutions Gender Index) include variables such as violence against women, acceptance of polygamy or ownership rights of women (12 indicators in total)
The study shows that countries in which societies strongly discriminate against women tend to score poorly in several of the Millennium Development Goals.
Take finance and property for instance. Countries where women are denied access to land or to credit according to SIGI indicators don’t do well in MDG1: Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty. Where women lack any access to credit the number of malnourished children is 85% above average. Where women lack any right to own land, they have on average 60% more malnourished children.
Also, countries where a high proportion of women below 19 are married (SIGI) have not performed well on MDG2: Achieve universal primary education. In the countries where more than half of girls aged 15-19 are married (DRC, Niger, Afghanistan, Congo and Mali), on average less than half of primary school age children are in school.
Meanwhile, countries which tolerate physical violence against women are accepted (SIGI) are not on track to reach MDG5: Improve maternal health. In the ten countries where women’s physical integrity is least protected (Mali, Somalia, Sudan, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea and Guinea), maternal mortality ratios are on average twice as high as elsewhere.
These relationships are evident in the chart, where the correlation between the relevant SIGI indicator and the corresponding MDG indicator is very strong:
|SIGI Indicator||MDG indicator|
|Women access to land||Number of malnourished children (MDG1)|
|Women access to credit|
|% women aged 15-19 maried||Primary school completion (MDG2)|
|Primary school enrollment|
|Physical integrity sub-index||Maternal mortality ratio|
Other MDG indicators beyond those shown here, such as children mortality, HIV prevalence or access to drinking water are also impacted by gender.
With only 5 years to go until 2015, it is now urgent to understand how gender-related issues can affect all MDGs. By integrating gender in the analysis required to track progress on each goal, substantial progress could be achieved.
- OECD Development Center – the Gender Index
- OECD Development Assistance Committee (2010), Investing in women and girls – the breakthrough strategy for achieving all the MDGs
- Gender Inequality and the MDGs:What are the Missing Dimensions?
- OECD MDG page