Commentary: How to Achieve Millennium Development Goal 3

Article Date

17 September 2010

Article Author

By ICRW Communications Staff

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

World leaders will convene in New York September 20 – 23 to discuss progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the emerging consensus is that women and girls must be at the center of global development efforts to ensure their effectiveness and sustainability.

Millennium Development Goal threeJust five years from the 2015 deadline, progress has stalled due in part to the global economic downturn. MDG 3 – to empower women and achieve gender equality – is widely identified as the lynchpin to maximize limited resources and ultimately achieve all eight MDGs.

As ICRW has stressed, political commitment is a crucial first step to gender equality. Indeed, recent statements from the United States, the United Nations and others, as well as the recent establishment of U.N. Women, indicate an unprecedented political commitment to women’s empowerment and gender equality. This offers a unique opportunity to refocus the global approach to advance progress on the MDGs. But commitments alone are not enough. Achieving gender equality will require increased financial resources, action informed by research, strict accountability and perseverance.

Gender equality requires fundamental transformation in the distribution of power, opportunities and outcomes for both women and men. If MDG strategies vow to truly overcome inequalities based on gender, they must tackle the persistent, underlying social norms that restrict women from accessing health care and education opportunities and exclude them from economic and political spheres. Equalizing available resources between women and men is necessary but not sufficient. To achieve more equitable relationships, we have to question women’s and men’s beliefs about their roles in society. Our efforts to better women’s health, economic and social status must involve men.

The complexity of achieving gender equality should not dissuade us from doing what is not just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do. If we fail on MDG 3, we will stymie progress on tackling poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy and depletion of natural resources.

Social transformation takes time, but we know how to affect change. It will require dedicated funding streams, an investment in regular reporting out of sex-disaggregated data and constant research and evaluation to ensure impact. It will require close monitoring by civil society to hold governments accountable for their pledges to equality. And it will require a long-term commitment that persists for years, even when newsworthy summits have ended.

Gender inequality is a problem with a solution – a solution that we have begun to realize. Recent political commitments are the beginning, but we will be required to do even more in the coming years. Only when national governments, multilateral institutions and civil society organizations commit, with funding and action, to changing the social norms that perpetuate gender inequality, will we hasten progress toward all eight Millennium Development Goals.