Global Resources

Hit or miss? Women’s rights and the Millennium Development Goals

Publisher: ActionAid International
Publication Date: Jan 2014
The disproportionate impact of poverty on women and girls is not an accident, but a result of systemic discrimination, and as a result we are off track for achieving to meet our Millennium Development Goals (MDG). For example 40 countries, including Vietnam, risk not achieving equal school enrolments for girls and boys until after 2025 and the current progress in cutting maternal mortality rates is less than one fifth of what is needed to achieve the goal. This document looks at each MDG in turn summarising the current state of progress and identifies some of the main ways in which violation of women’s rights are holding back further advances.

For example, the MDG 3 of promoting gender equality and empowering women only has one target: educational parity. As recognised in the Beijing Platform for Action, the actions needed to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment go well beyond education. Women’s rights are central to achieving all the goals so the narrow focus and lack of ambition of MDG 3 is arguably limiting progress overall. Despite this women are making progress; women’s participation in the labour force has been increasing in all developing countries, although much of this work is low status and badly paid.

Equally as HIV and AIDS are increasingly feminised, the progress for MDG 6 is mixed. At 33 million people, the total of people living with HIV is greater than ever before, yet the global proportion of adults living with HIV and AIDS has remained stable since 2001, and the number of deaths has fallen. However women in particular, are increasingly at the centre of the AIDS pandemic with discrimination and violence being key reasons for the feminisation of HIV and AIDS. ActionAid suggest specific policies such as investing in female controlled prevention methods, and training for health professionals to address violence against women. However these need to be accompanied by broader legal and political efforts to challenge and stop the discrimination that is helping to drive HIV and AIDS.

In conclusion the report argues that progress towards women’s rights lies at the heart of achieving all the MDGs. To meet the first seven goals, a true global partnership for development must be an alliance to realise women’s rights. Specific recommendations include setting more ambitious targets on women’s rights, collecting more and better sex-aggregated data and strengthening UN capacity on women’s rights.