Millennium goals falter because of gender neglect

Posted: 22 September 2008

Much more attention must be given to women's needs, and gender equalities, if the targets set out in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are to be reached, according to a report by a leading UK research group.

In a briefing paper, publishehd today,the Overseas Development Institute (ODI),says that concerns about gender are only explicit in two of the goals, 3 and 5. The first of these calls for 'gender equality in education, wage employment and national legislature' and the second calls for a reducation in maternal mortality and 'universal access to reproductive health'. "But gender inequality causes and perpetuates poverty and vulnerability across the MDG spectrum, from fighting diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS to improving access to safe drinking water", the report says.

"If the MDGs are to reduce poverty and promote sustainable economic growth, they must reverse their gender blindness and address gender specific risks and vulnerabilities", it adds..

The briefing paper on 'Gender and the MDGs' highlights the ways in which gender differences are often ignored in development solutions. For instance, while better immunisation coverage has made an important difference to child survival, if vaccines are to reach the poorest, more has to be done to address cultural gender biases. Boys in parts of Africa are much less likely to be immunised than girls, while in South Asia the opposite is often true.

The paper identifies key areas of the MDGs where the gender dynamics of poverty need to be addressed. These include: improving the ownership of resources and access to services; recognising and supporting the value of unpaid care work, and empowering women as agents of change within the household, community, economic and political arenas.

Health care

Nicola Jones, co-author of 'Gender and the MDGs' said: "Gender inequalities need to be tackled in order to accelerate progress on all the MDGs and to promote better results for women and men, boys and girls in international development.

"We need to go beyond just MDG 3, and think about gender targets for all the goals, whether it be supporting women to access better health care during pregnancy and after birth so as to reduce child mortality, or tackling the sexual violence that girls face en route to, or in, schools in many parts of the developing world.

"We also need to think about ways to encourage men to become more active in dismantling gender barriers, such as becoming more active in the care and health of their children."

An ODI event 'Engendering pro-poor change: Putting gender at the heart of the MDGs' is being held at the UN Millennium Plaza Hotel tomorrow.