What is the place of women in development? What are the challenges and achievements of the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls? How should the promotion of gender equality be included in the post-2015 agenda?
These are some of the issues discussed during the fifty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), by representatives of UN Member States, civil society organizations and UN entities from all regions of the world.
CSW is a global intergovernmental body working for the promotion of women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and defining global standards on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
This fifty-eighth session of CSW took place at the UN Headquarters in New York from 10 to 21 March 2014 and touched, more specifically, the “access and participation of women and girls to education and training”, and the promotion of “women’s equal access to full employment and decent work”. Furthermore delegates discussed women’s access to productive resources, and land property.
Despite the different delegates’ positions, the Commission finally reached an agreement that called for a stronger effort to achieve the millennium development goals, and confirmed the need for a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment for post-2015 development targets.
In fact in 2015 the set of international targets established in 2000 following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations – Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – will expire.
MDGs seek to eradicate poverty, guarantee primary education, combat HIV/AIDS and other disease, ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development. Furthermore, three goals are specially linked to women’s rights: promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality rates and improving maternal health.
The debate on the establishment of new sustainable development goals and indicators is very lively, because UN open working group are currently negotiating the future goals. Therefore, in this context, the message of the CSW is extremely strong: the Commission on the Status of women not only underlined the importance of a stand-alone goal for women rights, but also said that gender equality must underpin all other goals.
Millenium Development Goals (MDGs)
Relating to the current debate on this issue, PubAffairs, a cross-sectorial network of professionals working in the fields of public affairs correlated to the European Union, organized a conference the 18 March. The discussion moderator was Gender Coordinator for OECD Development Center Ms Keiko Nowacka, an expert in the field of women and development.
The panel, composed by Ms Schumacher (UN women), Ms Kakunga (le Monde selon les femmes) and MEP Dan Preda, discussed the different approaches to women development and the different standards for measuring inequalities. Ms Nowacka insisted on the importance of choosing the right indicators; not for nothing is she an OECD officer.
Post-2015 agenda interests many different actors of civil society. In fact, defining new goals means shaping future development policies all over the world. Just looking to EU objectives concerning cooperation and development aid, we understand the influence exerted by UN goals. And that is why CSW delegates decided to use strong sentences in the outcome document of the Commission on the Status of Women. Thanks to their decision to focus on gender equality and women’s rights as a transversal issue as well as an important stand-alone goal, women issues will be always be highlighted in sustainable development goals.
Another question raised by the post-2015 agenda is how to measure progresses in the field of development. A sensitive topic, especially because nowadays estimates on the achievement of Millennium Development Goals vary considerably.
If OECD in 2004 spoke about a “fast and accomplished progress” in some countries, proving that “MDGs are achievable”, Amnesty International last year expressed its preoccupations for the lack of transparency in the elaboration of MDGs and the lack of involvement of the population in emerging countries. According to the worldwide NGO, “the MDGs have certainly set goals and targets, but they evaded the obligations of States in respect of human rights, while some rights are crucial to overcome poverty”.
Speaking about gender issues, OECD’s drivers of gender inequality are: discriminatory family code (age of marriage, parental authority…), restricted physical integrity, son bias (fertility preferences and missing women), restricted resources and entitlement and restricted civil liberties.
To face these structural obstacles to women empowerment, OECD proposes to improve their access to education and to economic resources. On the one hand this could help to fight violence against women – dependent women are more vulnerable -, and to improve women self-awareness in family dynamics and in childcare. On the other, this could give women the opportunity to participate in the economic, social and political life of their country.
Indeed, women empowerment in educational and economic sectors is very important to reduce poverty and attain other development goals. However, as Mrs. Kakunga said during PubAffairs conference, reducing poverty we also help women’s rights.
An interesting initiative put in place by OCDE Development to enable the exchange and improve the knowledge on gender equality-related issues around the world, is Wikigender. This web platform, based on the work of the OECD Gender, Institutions and Development Data Base, provides citizens with articles about women issues and updated statistics.
According to its founders, Wikigender aims to “highlight the importance of social institutions such as norms, traditions and cultural practices that impact on women’s empowerment”.
To go further:
– Article of The Guardian about 58° Commission on the status of women: EN
– Article of The Guardian about women’s rights progress: EN
– CSW on the website of UN women: EN
– Millenium Development Goals: EN
– Amnesty International point of view on the achievement of MDGs: EN
– Wikigender: EN