Gender equality is the concept in which men and women deserve the same rights and opportunities. Since the beginning of the 21st century, the United Nations has regarded the importance of this human right by making it a central goal of the UN’s eight Millennium Development Goals. These objectives serve as a framework for eradicating poverty and encouraging global development. The gender equality goal aimed to “promote gender equality and empower women”; more specifically, it expected to “eliminate gender disparities in primary education and secondary education, preferably by 2000, and in all levels of education, no latter than 2015.” Fifteen years later, the UN has concluded in its final MDG report that even though gender gaps in access to education have narrowed, uneven progress has been made toward achieving the target at its core. As a result, many disparities remain in all levels of education: secondary and university education levels remain highly unequal and in many parts of the world women continue to face all kinds of discrimination in access to education, work, economic assets or participation in government.
The main barrier that impedes equal access to education is poverty, child marriage and violence against women. In many countries girls are taken out of school because they have household obligations and because they lack decent sanitation facilities. Even though UN has declared that third MDG´s specific target of ensuring general parity in primary school has been achieved I believe that there is still a lot to do to ensure that there are no disparities in primary and secondary education in any part of the world.
Keeping recent international news stories in mind, we can discern that gender inequality in primary and secondary education persists in many parts of the world. For example, in April of this year,more than 200 schoolgirls were abducted in north-eastern Nigeria by the terrorist group Boko Haram (when translated this means: Western education is forbidden). The terrorist group principally opposes the education of women. As they state under their version of Sharia law, women should stay home taking care of their children and looking after their husbands. We can find another example of disparate access to education in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where only a few years ago, when the Taliban gained power, girls were targeted for attending school. If they tried to get an education, they risked being threatened; many of them were even sprayed in their faces with burning acid. Even though the Pakistani government has tried to extend access to education to women, these threats haven’t stopped. An obvious illustration of this injustice is the shooting of Malala Yousafzai, the 2014 Nobel Peace Price winner, who was attacked in 2012 on her way home from school because she claimed her right to receive an education.
Despite the fact that the MGD’s framework has not achieved its aim of ensuring gender equality, we have to keep acting to make the world conscious of the importance of ensuring all human beings their access to human rights, regardless of their gender. In this manner, the Post-2015 Development Agenda presents a unique opportunity to face this problem as a prerequisite to achieve global health and social development, and to drive economic growth. The Post-2015 framework will pay special attention to achieving women’s economic empowerment, universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, ending violence against women and girls and raising women’s voices, leadership and influence. In order to accomplish these targets, the UN has to focus on the social transformations required to achieve gender equality. Undoubtedly, there is still a long way to go in order to attain gender equality, but if we take action, little by little, we will be closer to create the world we all would like to live in.
María Godino Cornejo
Latest posts by María Godino Cornejo (see all)
- #5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls - 27 February 2015
- #4 Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all - 25 February 2015
- The Law of War - 29 October 2014