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Gender Equality and Empower Women: MDG 3


  • Education: In developing regions, 96 girls were enrolled in primary and in secondary school for every 100 boys in 2009. This is a significant improvement since 1999, when the ratios were 91 and 88, respectively.

However, only three regions—the Caucasus and Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and South-Eastern Asia— have achieved gender parity in primary education (defined as a gender parity index between 97 and 103).

Exceptionally, in Eastern Asia, girls slightly outnumber boys in primary school. Progress for girls has lagged in most other parts of the developing world, and equal access to education in the early years remains a distant target in Northern Africa, Oceania, Southern Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Western Asia.

  • Jobs: The share of women employed outside of agriculture remains as low as 20 per cent in regions such as South and West Asia, and North Africa.
  • Politics: the global share of women in parliament continues to rise slowly, reaching 19 per cent in 2010, up from 11 percent in 1995.

Girls’ enrolment ratios in primary and secondary school have increased significantly in recent years, though large disparities remain at the university level, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and West Asia. On the job front, men continue to outnumber women in paid employment, though the share of women in paid non-agricultural jobs is slowly increasing, reached 41 per cent globally in 2008.


In 2010, the Council held its Annual Ministerial Review on the theme of gender equality and women’s empowerment. Ministers from 13 countries ― Australia, Brazil, Congo (Republic of), France, Guatemala, Korea, Moldova, Mongolia, Namibia, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United States ― delivered “National Voluntary Presentations”, which detailed their countries’ recent efforts to achieve gender parity, while offering case studies on successful initiatives. Countries also adopted a strong Ministerial Declaration, highlighting key policies to promote women’s rights and equal opportunity.

UN System

  • The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have teamed up to reduce female genital mutilation in numerous African countries, including: Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.
  • The UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) – now known as UN-Women - in partnership with seven NGOs, provided training in political campaigning and governing in Cambodia to 919 female candidates. The initiative helped increase the number of women running for office from 16 per cent in 2002 to 21 per cent in 2007, with the number of women elected rising from 8.5 per cent to 15 per cent.
  • The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) also supported the participation of women in the political process in Rwanda, where women now make up 56 per cent of the Parliament — the world’s highest share.
  • UNDP installed hundreds of diesel-run generators, known as multi-functional platforms, in rural areas across Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal to help ease some of the most time-consuming chores for women, such as fetching water, grinding and milling. The scheme freed up a daily average of two to four hours for women in Burkina Faso and contributed to increasing the owners’ annual income by an average of US$55 in 2009, producing net profits of US$248 per unit.
  • In Viet Nam, UNFPA works with the Viet Nam Women’s Union on a microfinance initiative that helps women get credit and training. Participants meet weekly to review loans and learn about household economics, farming and animal husbandry.
  • The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) “Girls’ Education Initiative” develops legal tools to reduce gender-based violence in schools, while also supporting innovative methods to bring education to marginalized women, via, for example, mobile phone technology.
  • The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women supports national and local action to address violence against women and girls. Since 1996, it has supported 304 programmes in 121 countries and territories with over US$50 million in grants.

Further reading…