Gender Equity

Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

MDG Goal #3: Promote gender equality and empower women. Women who can plan the timing and number of their births will have greater opportunities for work, education and civil involvement. Discrimination and violence against girls and women not only abuse their human rights, but also rob society of critical energy, economic production and creative talent.

Facts at a Glance

Women account for two thirds of the 1.4 billion people currently living in extreme poverty.1

Women make up 64 percent of the 774 million illiterate adults in the world.  Globally, 77 percent of women are literate, compared to 87 percent of men.2

Inequalities between girls and boys in access to schooling are more acute among poor people than among those with higher incomes. The largest gaps in schooling for boys and girls are in West Asia, Oceania, and sub-Saharan Africa. These gaps increase with higher education.

Across the developing world, formal income generating opportunities for women are limited. In sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, 80 percent of all jobs for women are in the informal work sector.3

In 2008, just over 18 percent of the seats in national parliaments were held by women.4

Countries where women’s share of seats in political bodies is less than 30 percent are less inclusive, less egalitarian, and less democratic.5

Out of the 572 million working poor in the world, an estimated 343 million, or 60 percent, are women.6

Studies around the world have shown that one woman in four is physically or sexually abused during pregnancy.  Some studies indicate that women battered during pregnancy run twice the risk of miscarriage and four times the risk of having a low birth weight baby as women who are not battered.  Violence may also be linked to a sizable portion of maternal deaths.7

Globally, adolescent girls are 50 percent more likely to be HIV positive than boys of the same age.8

Providing girls one extra year of education beyond the average boosts eventual wages by 10 to 20%.9

Failing to invest in girls' education lowers a country's Gross Domestic Product and slows female employment growth.10

Educated girls have better opportunities to participate in community life and decision-making.  They are more informed about health risks such as HIV and AIDS. 

They also tend to marry later, have fewer, healthier, better-nourished children and are more likely to send their children to schools.11

For Further Information

Taking Action: Achieving Gender Equality and Empowering Women. Task Force on Education and Gender Equality.

Gender Equality at the Heart of Development Why the role of women is crucial to ending world poverty.


United Nations, Millennium Development Goals Report, 2010.
2 DFID, DFID Factsheet on Gender Equality, (London: DFID, 2008).
3 Ibid.
Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Sep. 2008.
UN Millennium Project 2005, Taking Action: Achieving Gender Equality and Empowering Women. Task Force on Education and Gender Equality.
6 International Labor Organization, March 2009. Global Employment Trends for Women, p. 43.
7UN Millennium Project 2005.
Greene M et al, Girls Speak A New Voice in Global Development. International Center for Research on Women, 2010.
B. Herz and G.B. Sperling, What Works in Girls’ Education: Evidence and Policies from the Developing World (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 2004)
10 Klasen S et al. The Impact of Gender Inequality in Education and Employment on Economic Growth In Developing Countries: Updates and Extensions. World Bank Group, August 2008.
11 DFID, DFID Factsheet on Gender Equality, (London: DFID, 2008).


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