Gender and U.N. Millennium Goals

In the consultations about what will replace the millennium development goals (MDGs) when they expire in 2015, there is pressure on politicians and political commentators to come up with the next “new” idea. images-1The Guardian today reports that:

“The lack of focus on inequality was a key limitation of the MDGs and, rightly, this has become a major priority for the post-2015 agenda. But the discussion about inequality is evolving in a way that may undermine, and even reverse, the international commitment to gender balance. There are welcome efforts to define new ways of measuring income inequality, but gender and other social inequalities are invisible within these measures (pdf). And, while greater attention is finally being paid to social inequalities, there is a worrying tendency to treat gender as justone of many inequalities that generate poverty and exclusion. There is even a proposal to replace the current gender equality goal with a general and so far undefined “inequalities” goal.

“The fundamental premise behind the demand for a standalone goal is that gender is not just one of many inequalities but the most pervasive.

“First, it places women at a disadvantage at every level of income and within every disadvantaged group, including those disadvantaged by caste, race and disability.

“Second, gender is structured into the organisation of social relations of production and reproduction of every known society, in the same way class inequalities structure capitalist societies, racial inequalities structure South Africa, and caste inequalities structure India. In much of the world, there is a marked inequality in the responsibility that men and women take for the daily unpaid care work within the family and community, in their ability to mobilise resources and access opportunities to contribute to family and community on both a paid and unpaid basis, in the value and recognition given to these contributions, and in their capacity to exercise agency on their own behalf.

“Third, the structural nature of gender inequality means it is central to meeting development goals. Wide-ranging benefits accrue to society when gender equality is taken seriously – and corresponding losses when it is not. A recent review of the literature (pdf) found robust evidence that countries with greater gender equality in employment and education were likely to report higher rates of economic growth and human development. The reverse relationship – that economic growth contributes to gender equality – was far weaker and less consistent.”


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