MDGs & Gender
GOAL 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
Target 3a

Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015

  • Ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education
  • Share of women in wage employment in the nonagricultural sector
  • Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament

MDG 3 is central to the achievement of all the other MDGs, yet it has only one target, educational parity. While there is a commitment to track, there are no targets for women's share of wage employment and women's share of representative seats in public decision-making. That concrete targets motivate action is evident from the fact that, of these three indicators for women's empowerment, significant progress has been achieved only in the area of education, which is also the target for MDG 2.

Figure MDG3.1: Women's Representation in Parliaments Has Increased but Regional Averages Are Still Below 30%

The percentage of women in parliaments has increased in the last decade, but regional averages are all below 20%, with the exception of developed countries. At this rate, a critical mass of 30% will not be achieved by 2015. The parity zone between 40% and 60% will not be reached in developing countries for another 40 years.

Source: IPU database.

Figure MDG3.1 indicates a slow rate of improvement in women's share of national parliamentary seats: At the current rate of increase, few countries will reach a critical mass of 30 per cent by 2015. As of June 2008, women's share of seats in national parliaments (lower or single house) was only 18.4 per cent – that is, one out of every 5 parliamentarians is a woman. At the present rate, it will take another 40 years for developing countries to reach the parity zone between 40 and 60 per cent. As seen in Chapter 2, quotas and reservations play a positive role in accelerating the rate at which women move into public decision making. Across the world there is a striking contrast between countries with and without quotas (Figure MDG3.2). This difference can be as significant as 16 per cent, as is the case in South Asia.

Figure MDG3.2: Countries with Quotas Have Higher Representation of Women in Parliaments – in All Regions

The use of quotas can be instrumental in accelerating the increase of regional averages and in improving the probability of reaching a critical mass of 30% by 2015, as well as the parity zone of 40% to 60% sooner than the estimated 40 years at the current rate.

Source: IPU database; IDEA Global Database of Quotas for Women; and IDEA (2003).

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