The Millenium Development Goals and Gender

Following the class discussion on the Millenium Development Goals, I was particularly interested in re-approaching them from a gender perspective. I agreed that the MDGs were well intentioned but not necessarily practical or realistic, however one of the more positive aspects was that it put various issues on an official development agenda. From this standpoint, it would seem beneficial that “promoting gender equality and empowering women”  (MDG3) was an issue that was given importance and included in the conversation.

One of the main criticisms I read, however, was that this reinforces the idea that the empowerment of women is a separate development issue, which is problematic because this often results in efforts at the empowerment of women being adressed as a less important concern which can only be catered to when there are already sufficient resources to address other, more important concerns. Furthermore, the failure to consider and integrate gender in ‘other’ development efforts results in less effective development overall; Development issues as well as development efforts affect the genders differentially therefore the lack of gender considerations lead directly to unequal benefit,.

This article  from Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) about gender inequality and the MDGs states, “We find that countries where social institutions are highly discriminatory towards women tend to score poorly against the human development targets used to track progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).”  The article points out for example, that the issue of women’s access to land and credit is essential to addressing the eradication of hunger and poverty (MDG 1). Additionally, while the MDGs in general have received the criticism of being vague and not necessarily prescriptive, the goal of”promoting gender equality and empowering women” is especially so, compared for example to MDGs 4,5, and 6 which all pertain to different aspects of health and medicine – MDG6 even specifies certain epidemics which need to be addressed.

Important issues which directly impede the empowerment of women as well as the ability for overall progress in other respects, such as sexual violence against women, are not mentioned. This makes it particularly difficult to address MDG3, or even define indicators to monitor progress. Interestingly, much of what I read noted ICT as an important tool in working towards the empowerment of women. For example, there have been successful efforts to convey information about sexual and reproductive health and rights through radio campaigns, and the use of e-commerce has given women access to the global marketplace and taken down some of the societal if not necessarily structural barriers to equal economic rights, as noted in UNESCO’s report on gender and ICTs. Also, other technological innovations and initiatives have been directed specifically towards women’s safety, such as HarrassMap which uses Ushahidi’s crowdsourcing information technology to help prevent sexual harassment and assault.

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3 responses to “The Millenium Development Goals and Gender

  • AmeliaConrad

    I think that you make some really good points here. While I think it is great that the MDGs chose to promote female empowerment, doing so in such a vague manner and in a way that makes women’s development seem like a concept separate from human development, makes it a goal that is unlikely to be realized anytime soon. Women’s empowerment is ESSENTIAL to the realization of human development. Women’s participation in the labor force leads to healthier children, cushions economic shocks, increases the number of women in parliament, boosts economic growth, etc., etc. and this is only one example of one step towards “empowering women.” I would love to see goals that not only promote women’s empowerment in clear and specific terms, but that also use a more inclusive language so that countries cannot continue to marginalize gender issues but instead recognize the need for development that incorporates ALL people– even the more than one half who happen to be female.

    • npham2

      I completely agree with you. Women play a major role in development. It is indicated through research and case studies that women do most of the agricultural work in Africa and other developing regions. Not only do they participate in economic actions, but they are the primary caretaker of the household. This is why I also think women empowerment is imperative for increase in development since females play such a primarily goal both outside and inside the household, despite having less of an authoritative power than males.

  • aspiros01

    I am very interested in the discussion of gender and development (as it pertains to ICTs in this case) as well. There is a strong breakdown of the MDGs as they relate to gender in a PDF I have. It is called “Hit or Miss?Women’s Rights and the Millenium Development Goals” by act!onaid. If you are interested but cannot find it online let me know and I will be happy to email it along.

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