Feb 06, 2016 10:25 UTC

Welcome to the 4th weekly episode of the series Unfulfilled Third Millennium Development Goals. One of the ideals which have drawn the attention of the organizers of the Third Millennium Development Plan for maintenance of human dignity and elimination of poverty is promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women, which in turn highly contribute to materialization of human rights in the global arena.

United Nations has named gender equality as one of its long term goals; because in the view of UN, higher earnings will contribute to a fall in child mortality rate, improvement of health, a rise in output, and materialization of the development plan goals.

Given the importance of the issue of gender equality, a number of goals have been set within the framework of the Third Millennium Development Plan for education of women, reinforcement of women’s economic capacities, and provision of grounds for a rise in participation of women in ruling systems and important policymaking. However, some experts opine that the goals of the Third Millennium Development Plan in regards to women across the globe are faced with a number of challenges. A while ago, the UN Women’s Agency Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, has warned the members of this international body and the representatives of the World Inter-Parliamentary Union against the sluggish progress in empowerment of women in the international community and has pointed out that this sluggish growth can seriously threaten access to the Third Millennium Development Plan goals.

Based on UN findings on promotion of women’s literacy in poor countries, for every additional year of education for women in primary schools, their earnings grew by an average of 10%. However, despite the importance of this fact, there are still countries which have failed to provide women’s equal access to educational and academic opportunities. In many countries, the gender gaps were visible in access to education as of primary school. For instance, in Chad only 55% of girls is registered in the secondary school after completion of the primary school. After Chad, countries such as Ivory Coast, Pakistan, and Yemen are witness to the highest challenges in admission of girls to secondary school following the completion of primary school. Moreover, in Mali, only 25% of women are literate, while the rate of literacy of men in this country stands at 43%. There is a similar situation in Chad, where the rate of women’s literacy stands at 28% compared to the men’s rate of literacy which stands at 47%. Women’s low rate of literacy in these countries has caused problems for development of these states. Meanwhile, it should be noted that even in developed countries, women are faced with discriminations in employment.

According to the announcement of International Economic Association, in many countries women are denied managerial posts despite maintaining the same academic qualifications as men. In all of these countries, men maintain 80% of the organizational posts. There is also a large gender gap in access to economic and commercial opportunities in a number of countries. In several countries, the number of employed men is at least three-fold higher that the number of recruited women in the workforce. Among these states, Syria is the worst country in this regard as the consequence of the war and insecurity it has grappled with in recent years. In this country, men comprise 76% of the workforce, while women’s contribution to the workforce stands at 14%. Moreover, the working women in some countries maintain the lowest earnings compared to their male peers. For instance, in Lebanon, men’s earnings stands at more than $26,000 per annum, while the average annual income of women in this country stands at roughly $7000 per year.

Meanwhile, it should be noted that these double standards are a worldwide phenomenon.  For instance, according to latest released figures, American women are more restricted than American men.

According to Leeds University Professor, Ruth Pearson, although female workers sense the personal freedom resulting from maintenance of an independent earning and a rising economic independence, they well realize that their earnings are far less than their male peers. Also, in a number of countries, women maintain a much lesser earning than women, who are working in industrial countries. Generally speaking, despite the significant achievements of women, there are still major gender gaps in the global labor market. In fact, based on figures released in the year 2015, roughly 50% of women at the working age are recruited worldwide, while the related figure for men stands at 77%.

These double standards also exist in the managerial ranks. According to a global study which has been carried out in the year 2013, women only occupy 24% of the senior managerial posts, which is sluggishly rising worldwide. However, among G8 member states, which are among the richest countries, worldwide, women only comprise 16% of the members of the executive boards. This is while this figure in countries such as Brazil, Russia, China, and India stands at 26%, and is 38% in Northern European countries. In Japan, for every hundred people that maintain senior posts, 93 are men. The related figure in the US stands at 80. Only in China, the number of women that maintain senior managerial posts has been mentioned to stand higher than men. Interestingly, countries such as Sweden and Norway, which have approved gender equality laws for several years, are respectively ranked 27th and 22nd worldwide in relation to gender equality.

Meanwhile, women’s progress in leading roles has been very sluggish. Only 16% of the parliament speakers in the world are women, and only 18% of the world’s ministerial posts are occupied by women. These figures have only improved by 4% in the past ten years. According to figures released in 174 countries, in the past two decades, female parliamentarians have doubled in numbers throughout these years. However, the number of male lawmakers is five-fold higher than the number of female lawmakers, across the globe. This fact has been confirmed by the International Inter-Parliamentary Union and Women’s Committee. Based on the joint report of these organizations, the number of female lawmakers has reached its peak at 22%. However, the 0.3% growth of participation of women in parliamentary activities worldwide is rather disappointing.

According to the view of critics, although attention has been paid to women’s rights and empowerment within the framework of Third Millennium Development Plan, the necessary conditions for materialization of this goal have not been fulfilled. For instance, the financial commitments of governments for empowerment of women and support for women’s rights have been overlooked. The low budgets allocated for gender equality by governments has led to failure in fulfillment of women’s rights within the framework of Third Millennium Development Plan. Meanwhile, UN Women’s Agency executive director believes if the empowerment of women would be prioritized by world countries and the global heads of state would fulfill the pledges they made in Beijing Conference, twenty years ago, the goals of the Third Millennium Development Plan for empowerment of women will still be fulfilled by the year 2030.