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Engendering pro-poor change: Putting gender at the heart of the MDGs

Time (GMT +01) 08:00 10:30
Ms Rasheda K Chowdhury - Minister for Primary and Mass Education, Women and Children and Cultural Affairs, Bangladesh
Yassine Fall - UNIFEM Senior Economic Adviser to the UN Millennium Project as Senior Policy Adviser on Gender Equality
Pernille Falck- Head of Section for the Department for Africa, Foreign Affairs of Denmark
Dr Nicola Jones - Research Fellow, ODI
Prof David Hulme - Associate Director, CPRC
Ms Rachel Mayanja - Special Advisor to Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women

The Overseas Development Institute regards gender as a crucial cross-cutting theme that needs to be considered as part of the achievement of all the eight Millennium Development Goals. Thus, the ODI and the Foreign Ministry of Denmark hosted a side event to ensure gender equality issues were specifically addressed at the UN MDG summit. 

ODI has recently launched a new programme on Social Development in which gender is a key theme, and researchers across the institute have and are undertaking research on a range of gender-related themes, from health and immunization policy to trade, and from poverty reduction and social protection to agriculture. For the MDG Summit we produced a briefing paper on Gender and the MDGs, with a focus on the ways in which addressing gender inequalities could help to tackle some of the key constraints in fulfilling the MDGs in many developing country contexts.

Key themes arising from the ODI Gender and MDGs event

Integrating gender in policy dialogue and policy commitments
UNIFEM’s experience in facilitating policy dialogue has been through, for example, efforts to bring MDG goals into PRSPs (still in the making). In the Millennium Project, the goal was to bring in gender equality activists into policy dialogue and assessment.

However, there are many segmented groups, e.g. MoF, IFIs, social policy which create a dichotomy of looking at macro economic policy outside of, and de-linked from, social policy and gender equality. Social policy, however, needs to be at centre of macro policy design. The challenge is how to bring gender into these different policy instruments (fiscal, structural etc ) and how to invest in women – by linking women’s local experiences to macro-economic policy.

In Bangladesh, the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs have been able to draw on gender equality policies identified in the PRSP. In achieving gender parity and getting more women as teachers they have implemented a flexible school calendar for women teachers and girls so that local communities can fix their school calendar. To recruit more female teachers they have changed the recruitment process to facilitate women’s enrolment.

Financing for women’s empowerment and gender equality
Financing for gender equality has been largely overlooked by mainstream development actors. There is a need to break the cycle of poverty and inequality: women are not victims, they are capable actors, but they need opportunities to bring themselves out of poverty. However, these opportunities are often few and far between. Gender must be a key feature in process of financing of development. Financing gender equality is critical for sustaining economic growth, reducing poverty and improving human development indicators (such as the still shockingly high maternal mortality rates in much of sub-Saharan Africa). We need to look closely at the enabling environment for mobilising resources for gender equality.

The gap between policy commitments and implementation must be filled through the necessary human, financial and material resources. In particular, we need to combat gender policy dilution, and ensure that a gender lens is used by government-development partner sector working groups in the post-Paris Declaration environment and as part of the MDG 8 call for more effective global partnerships.

Measuring gender equality – the need for data and sex-disaggregated indicators
Having gender equality goals or indicators in MDG 3 and 5 is not enough. MDG 4 is seen as gender neutral, but recent research shows that gender differentials are present: in India, many girls less likely to immunised than boys; in Nigeria, however, the opposite is true.

We also need a better ground level reality of gender equality measurements. Certain indicators are not there - e.g. local indicators, which are important determinants for gender equality (in Bangladesh, for example, women eating a fish head at dinner as an indicator of decision-making power within the household and of empowerment more generally).

The MDGs need to recognise gender related barriers, and more is needed to be done to make gender more visible across all the goals.

For this, we need to have sex-disaggregated indicators and collection of data. To get this we need to draw on commitments such as CEDAW and the Beijing Platform for Action – where countries signed up to collecting and reporting on gender disaggregated data. We need to find ways to support governments to deliver on this, e.g. through innovative funding mechanisms, or adding sex-disaggregated data collection onto existing surveys, such as MICS, household surveys.

Opportunities through gender-sensitive social protection
One approach for supporting gender equality poverty reduction is through gender-sensitive social protection and safety nets. Social protection enables households to take advantage of economic opportunities, to reduce poverty and inequality, increase access to and demand for services, improve productivity, and support women’s care-giving responsibilities.  
Social protection programme and policy measures include:

  • community child care
  • care give allowances which recognise the cost of care
  • education stipends for girls
  • awareness of gender based violence

Partnerships in achieving gender-equality through the MDGS
The Danish Call for Action on MDG3 aims to increase attention to women’s economic empowerment. The Call for Action has secured 100 new commitments from governments, international organizations, private sector representatives and individuals. The 100 commitments provide a new platform for joint work and to create strong partnerships to implement and monitor commitments.


The Millennium Development goals (MDGs) are eight development goals established in 2000 by the international community aimed to be achieved by the year 2015. With many of the goals off-track to meeting the target, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon is convening a High-level Event on the MDGs on 25 September in New York. The event will bring together world leaders and the development community to accelerate the progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

Gender is a crucial cross-cutting theme that needs to be considered as part of the achievement of all the eight Millennium Development Goals.  Thus, to ensure that there are more partnership events for the MDG Summit in September that specifically addresses gender equality issues, ODI is hosting a gender side event with support from the Foreign Ministry of Denmark.

ODI has recently launched a new programme on Social Development in which gender is a key area of research, and researchers across the institute have and are undertaking research on a range of gender-related themes, from health and immunisation policy to trade, and from poverty reduction and social protection to agriculture.

The objective of this event is to highlight the importance of employing a gender lens to better understand the development challenges underpinning the MDGs. Policy dialogue on the MDGs needs to recognise that notwithstanding the importance of MDG 3 (parity in education and women’s political representation) and MDG5 (reducing maternal mortality and promoting reproductive health), gender dynamics of power, poverty and vulnerability cut across all the goals.  This event, involving speakers from Africa and South Asia who are at the heart of gender and policy action, will focus on raising the visibility of gender, equality and women’s empowerment as a linchpin for MDG achievement from Goal 1 to 8. Particular emphasis will be placed on discussing possible policy solutions at the international, national and local levels.