Thursday, March 17, 2011

Millennium Development Goals: Don't Leave Women Behind

MDGs: Don’t leave the women behind

Saturday, 12 March 2011 17:25 Opinion .

AT the Millennium Summit in 2000 in New York 189 heads of state resolved among other things:

--To promote gender equality and empowerment of women as effective ways to combat poverty, hunger and disease and to stimulate development that is truly sustainable.

--To ensure equal participation of girls and boys in all forms of education based on their proportion in the relevant age groups (gender parity).

--To ensure educational equality between boys and girls (gender equality).

--To develop and implement strategies that give young people (men and women) everywhere a real chance to find decent and productive work.

--To ensure that the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communication technologies are available to all.

Firstly, these resolutions entailed putting women back into the picture as rights bearers and not deliverers of development, and extending interest in how women’s education impacts on other people and how education impacts on women themselves in the areas of development and poverty eradication. Secondly, this international consensus accords an important place to achieving gender justice in the educational sphere.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) emphasise two concepts in this regard, gender parity and gender equality. Achieving gender parity is just one step towards gender equality in and through education.

Education, therefore, needs to be understood in a holistic manner that includes the right to access and participation, as well as rights-based gender-sensitive educational environments, processes, outcomes and gender justice.

Development or empowerment is linked with economic growth or social cohesion and sometimes improved governance.

Gender mainstreaming was endorsed by the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, as a strategy for promoting equality between women and men.

Gender mainstreaming was discussed as “the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies and programmes, in all areas and at all levels, and as a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and social spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated. “The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality.”

Gender empowerment in education entails access to schooling up to a certain level and the achievement made as well as how decisions about education are made by adult women. It includes decision-making about access to schooling in households, as well as the achievements that flow from education — not just narrowly defined notions of reading and writing, but more complex notions of well-being.

Heads of states met again in New York in September 2010 at the High-Level Review Summit on the MDGs and recognised among other areas that gender equality, the empowerment of women, women’s full enjoyment of all human rights and the eradication of poverty are essential to economic and social development, including the achievement of all the MDGs.

Article 72 of the Summit Outcome Document entitled “Keeping the Promise: Achieving the Millennium Development Goals” outlines the commitments made by the world leaders on accelerating progress to achieve Millennium Development Goal 3.

These include among others:

(a) Taking action to achieve the goals of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and its critical areas of concern, the commitments in the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development 1994, and the obligations and commitments of State parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

They reaffirmed the need for the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and agreed that achieving gender equality and empowerment of women is both a key development goal and an important means for achieving all of the MDGs.

(b) Ensuring access to education and successful schooling of girls by removing barriers and expanding support for girls’ education through measures such as providing free primary education, a safe environment for schooling and financial assistance such as scholarships and cash transfer programmes, promoting supportive policies to end discrimination against women and girls in education, and tracking completion and attendance rates with a view to retaining girls in schools through secondary levels;

(c) Empowering women, in particular women living in poverty, through, inter alia, social and economic policies that guarantee them full and equal access to all levels of quality education and training and vocational training, including technical, managerial and entrepreneurial training, and to affordable and adequate public and social services;

(d) Ensuring that women benefit from policy measures to generate full and productive employment and decent work for all, in accordance with commitments by states to International Labour Organisation conventions, including policy measures to promote, inter alia, access of women and girls, including mothers and pregnant women, to formal and non-formal education, equal skills development and employment opportunities, closing wage gaps between women and men and recognising women’s unpaid work, including care work.

As Zimbabwe celebrates the International Women’s Day, the country needs to start thinking of action to take in order to move the women of Zimbabwe forward in the areas of access, participation, technology and decent work as provided in the outcome document.

Investing in infrastructure and labour-saving technologies, especially in rural areas would benefit the women and girls especially in reducing their burden of domestic activities. Efforts should be made to facilitate access by women to affordable microfinance, and in particular, microcredit. This can contribute to several benefits for the women including poverty eradication, gender equality and empowerment of women; affording the opportunity for girls to attend school and women to engage in self-employment or participate in the labour market.

Promoting women’s economic empowerment and ensuring women’s access to productive resources is fundamental. and critical. In this regard, strengthening gender responsive public management is critical in ensuring gender equality in resource allocation, capacity development and benefit sharing in all sectors, including in central and local level governments.

This all goes for promoting and protecting women’s equal access to adequate housing, property and land, including rights to inheritance, and enabling them to secure access to credit through appropriate constitutional, legislative and administrative measures;

Gender-based violence is an impediment and a violation of human rights and there is need to combat all forms of violence against women and girls, everywhere, which undermines their full enjoyment of all human rights.

Women should have access to justice and protection, and that all perpetrators of such violence are duly investigated, prosecuted and punished in order to end impunity, in conformity with national legislation.

On the political front appropriate legislative action should be taken to improve the numbers and active participation of women in political and economic decision-making processes.

This creates an even playing field for men and women in political and government institutions in achieving the goal of equal participation of women and men as key stakeholders in all political and economic decision- making processes, at all levels.

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