The United Nations fifteen-year development program, launched in 2000, came to a close on Monday with the organisation's final report, and the gender equality results don’t look good.
While two of the UN’s eight Millennium Development Goals focused specifically on women by targeting education parity, employment equality and maternal health, the UN admits that it ‘fell short’ in both categories.
‘Gender inequality persists in spite of more representation of women in parliament and more girls going to school,’ the UN stated. ‘Women continue to face discrimination in access to work, economic assets and participation in private and public decision-making.’
And although disparities between men and women clearly exist in education and employment opportunities, and in spite of the fact that women have only limited access to political representation and reproductive health services, the UN intends to dedicate only one of its next seventeen objectives to women’s empowerment, which will be entitled its ‘Sustainable Development Goals.’
Here’s what you need to know now about women’s equality (or lack thereof):
- THE GLOBAL GENDER PAY GAP IS BIGGER THAN YOU THINK
Worldwide, women’s employment opportunities have improved very little since 2006, according to a report released by the Global Gender Gap Report in 2014. Right now, the gender gap for economic participation rests at just 60%, up from 56% in 2006. In South Africa, the 77% pay gap is less extreme but still significant.
- WOMEN STILL LACK A POLITICAL VOICE
Only 22% of all parliament representatives in the world are female, and only ten women have EVER been head of state. In South Africa, no woman has ever been in charge of the country, but women made up 44% of parliamentarians as of 2009. While better than average, this stat does not equal gender parity because women still lack authority positions. Ironically, research shows that women’s participation in politics tends to lead to better education policies for children, increased representation of women’s issues, such as reproductive health and childcare, and more effective sustainable development projects.
- JUDICIAL FAIRNESS IS SEVERELY LIMITED IN SOUTH AFRICA
In 2012, South Africa ranked fourth out of 87 countries on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) index of social institutions and gender equality. By 2014, South Africa had dropped drastically to 90th out of 148 countries. According to the OECD, South African women are discouraged from using the legal system to claim justice. UN research reports that out of 67,000 sexual offences reported between April 2012 and March 2013, only 6% of the accused were actually convicted, meaning that women cannot trust the legal system to protect them against sexual discrimination and violence.
- LIKEWISE, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS STILL A REALITY
The international finance company KPMG’s 2014 study revealed that gender-based violence affects all South Africans regardless of race or economic class, and the homicide rate for South African women was five times the global average as of 2009.
The Department of Women’s Motalatale Modiba said: 'The paradox of progressive legislation and solid policies with little impact on outcomes for women and children remains. This paradox is evident in the area of gender based violence.'
- EDUCATION IS FINALLY ON PAR IN SOUTH AFRICA
One thing we can be happy about: South Africa, along with many other countries worldwide, is on track to achieve parity in primary and secondary education (although this by no means ensures the quality of the education). However, while primary education is now equal in five out of nine development regions, the UN found that gender equality in secondary education was achieved in only 36% of participating countries globally, which shows that we still have a long way to go before equality can be realised.
Even though the UN calls the Millennium Development Goals ‘the most successful anti-poverty movement in history,’ the wealth from this program has not been shared equally. If the UN backs out now on women’s equality, the outcome could be dangerous.
What are your thoughts on the UN Development goals? Do you feel that the situation of women has changed in the last 15 years? Tweet us your thoughts @ELLEmagazineSA or comment below.