Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Gender equality – a key factor for progress in society

Development objectives like reducing poverty and hunger, improving children’s access to education and health, reducing child and maternal mortality and combating diseases like HIV/AIDS are closely linked to gender equality.

Most development goals can be achieved when serious efforts are made to increase women’s education, employment, income and intra-household decision making power. Gender equality thus emerges as key factor for progress in society.

This is valid not only for developing countries, but also for high income countries. Even in developed countries, the majority of women is still disadvantaged in terms of wage income and career development in comparison to men. Many women still face barriers to combine work and family life. This results in a reduced labour market participation, which leads to reduced income and insufficient social protection for many women.

Gender inequalities are largest, however, in developing countries, as women suffer more than men from malnutrition, diseases, illiteracy and the risk of social and political instability. Genital mutilation, female infanticide and sex-selective abortion, early marriage, limited freedom of movement and freedom of dress, lack of property and lack of access to land and inheritance are par for the course for many women in poor countries.

Enhancing education and career perspectives for women is crucial to increase women’s economic empowerment in all regions of the world. Against the background of a feminization of poverty, it is crucial to significantly increase the proportion of women in decent labour. Only work that provides women with rights, adequate income, career opportunities and social protection promotes their economic power.

Women’s income, in turn, also increases their bargaining power within the household, which is proven to increase investments in the education and health of children. By this means, women’s empowerment turns out to be not only fruitful for women themselves, but for all of society.

Angela Luci

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