Gender and the MDGs: A gender lens is vital for pro-poor results

Briefing papers
September 2008

Gender inequality causes and perpetuates poverty and vulnerability. But greater gender equality can help to reduce the root causes of poverty and vulnerability and contribute to sustainable pro-poor growth.

Given that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) address key development challenges, one would expect a gender focus throughout the Goals. The fact is that experiences of poverty differ according to sex, age, ethnicity  and location. However, gender is only explicit in MDGs 3 and 5. MDG3 measures gender parity in education; the share of women in wage employment; and the proportion of seats held by women in national legislatures. MDG5 focuses on maternal mortality and, since 2005, on universal access to reproductive health.

This explicit inclusion in just two MDGs is too narrow, and sidelines other gender-specific risks and vulnerabilities, roles and responsibilities, and power relations. It is unlikely to lead to gender equality and the empowerment of girls and women, or tackle the development challenges that must be overcome for sustainable poverty reduction.

These limitations are compounded by the gender-blindness of other MDG indicators, and the fact that the gender dynamics that cut across the goals are relatively invisible in policy dialogues.

This Briefing Paper discusses how gender relations underpin four clusters of Goals: those on poverty and sustainable development; service access; care and care-giving; and voice and agency. It looks at ways to promote an interlinked gender-sensitive approach to the MDG achievement.