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HOME: STATE OF WORLD POPULATION 2004: Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment
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Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment

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The ICPD and the MDGs
Challenges: Filling the Half-empty Glass

The ICPD and the MDGs

Millennium Development Goal 3, “Promote gender equality and empower women”, reflects the ICPD’s objectives. Its main target for measuring progress, though, is rather limited: eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and at all education levels by 2015.

The UN Millennium Project Task Force 3 on Primary Education and Gender Equality has adopted a broader operational framework that assesses gender equality and women’s empowerment along three dimensions: (1) human capabilities as measured through education, health and nutrition; (2) access to resources and opportunities, referring to economic assets and political participation; and (3) security in terms of vulnerability to violence.(10)

Drawing on extensive evidence from a wide range of countries, the task force has identified strategic priorities for national and international action; the synergy between these priorities and the ICPD approach is strong. Central to strengthening women’s capabilities are: elimination of gender gaps in secondary education, and increasing adolescents’ and women’s access to sexual and reproductive health information and services.

Priorities for improving economic and political opportunity are: investing in infrastructure in women-friendly ways so that women’s work time and drudgery levels are reduced; reducing discrimination against women in employment and earnings; reducing gender inequalities in property and inheritance; and increasing women’s share of seats in local and national government bodies. Key to improving women’s security is to take action that will significantly reduce the incidence of violence against girls and women.


In 2003, WHO’s Department of Gender and Women’s Health provided an analysis of how looking through a gender lens would strengthen the effectiveness of efforts to realize the health-related MDGs in addition to Goal 3.

WHO’s recommendations include, among others: paying attention to the impacts of son preference on the nutritional intakes and health care access for girls and women; reducing the work burdens of girls and women; addressing the growing feminization of the HIV pandemic due to gender-biased traditional practices and inappropriate programme emphasis; and addressing the specific effects of gender in the incidence of malaria and tuberculosis. To reduce indoor air pollution that particularly affects women and girls, WHO is putting priority on provision of cleaner cooking and lighting fuels. See Sources

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