Why gender inequality must not be forgotten post-2015

80-year-old Ratna Maya Thapa from the Central Region of Nepal shows her voter registration card after walking for one and a half hours to cast her ballot in the Nepalese Constituent Assembly elections.

80-year-old Ratna Maya Thapa from the Central Region of Nepal shows her voter registration card after walking for one and a half hours to cast her ballot in the Nepalese Constituent Assembly elections.

The advancement for global gender equality is a movement that has been focused on increasingly by intergovernmental organisations, NGOs and governments in the last fifteen years. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were introduced in 2000 have highlighted the problems of global gender inequality and its social, economic and political impacts. However, progress has been slow and gender inequality still persists as women face barriers to education, work and participation in government across the world.[1]

The MDGs have entered their last year of activity, with their success being a contested topic for the international community.  While certain countries have achieved the goals, many – particularly in the most needy areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa have made little progress.[2] MDGs related to education have not been fully met; this week a report was published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that stated 175 million young people in poor countries, which is equivalent to 25% of the most vulnerable young population are illiterate.[3] Education links closely with gender inequality, indeed, academics argue that gender inequality will not be eradicated without it.

UNESCO has highlighted the importance of a continued development agenda based around gender inequality. UNESCO believes that “gender equality is a fundamental right, a commonly shared value and a necessary condition for the achievement of all internationally agreed development objectives”.[4] Gender inequality is not only central to alleviate poverty, but is also related to the global quest of sustainable development and global peace.  It restricts the speed of a countries development, by ignoring women, 50% of the countries brainpower, creative genius and economic drivers is excluded.[5]

Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for International Development, has further issued a rallying call to promote the need for a continued emphasis on global gender inequality. “Women make up just 19% of parliamentarians; they perform 66% of the world’s work – but earn only 10% of the income, and own less than 10% of the world’s property; almost two thirds of the 750 million illiterate people in the developing world are women; and one in three girls or women has been beaten or sexually abused”.[6] It is vitally important that the international community remains focused on the issue of gender inequality; if the global community invests in girls and women this means that their children are healthier and better educated.

It is now important as we approach 2015 and the contested suggested completion of the MDGs to continue highlighting the issue of gender inequality. An approach is still needed to combat the problem, as it remains embedded in people’s values in the developing world.[7] Even though sustainability is critically important, issues such as gender inequality must not be forgotten when the expected 2015 sustainability goals are created.

[1] Collier, R. (2012). More support needed to meet Millennium Development Goals. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 184(12), 659.

[2] Africa Research Bulletin. (2013). Millennium Development Goals: Liberia Panel Meeting. Africa Research Bulletin: Economic, Financial and Technical Series, 50(1), 19830.

[3] UNESCO. (2014). Retrieved on 29th January 2014 from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002256/225660e.pdf

[4] UNESCO. (2014). Retrieved on 30th January 2014 from: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/themes/gender-equality/themes/

[5] UNESCO. (2012). From access to equality: empowering girls and women through literacy and secondary education. Paris: UNESCO.

[6] Justine Greening. (2012) Retrieved 30th January 2014 from: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/justine-greening-gender-in-the-post-2015-agenda

[7] Unterhalter, E., & Dorward, A. (2013). New MDGs, development concepts, principles and challenges in a post-2015 world. International Bibliography of the Social Sciences, 113(2), 609-625.