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Gender: the hidden dimension of Millennium Development Goals

21 September 2010

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.

Further reading:

2 Responses leave one →
  1. September 30, 2010

    Gender Imbalance at Board level ?

    As reported in Times of India ( Sept.18,2010 ), a study, conducted jointly by Standard Chartered Bank and Cranfield School of Management re: representation of women on Boards of Directors of Companies, found following figures :

     Canada……………………………..15%

     USA…………………………………..14.5 %

     UK………………………………………12.2 %

    > Hong Kong………………………….8.9 %

     Australia…………………………….8.3 %

     India…………………………………..5.3 %

    For India, the study tells us that women held 59 out of a total of 1112 directorships in the BSE-100 group.

    What the study does not reveal is :

    ” How many of these 59 women were a mother / sister / daughter / wife of the promoters ?

    Co-author of the report Aparna Banerji says :

    Corporate India clearly has some way to go in addressing gender imbalance at “board level “.

    May be the right place to start is for HR managers to hire many more girls at the “entry level” – and in HR function itself !

    With regards

    hemen parekh

    Jobs for All = Peace on Earth

    http://www.CustomizeResume.com

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