On the eve of International Women’s Day a new report from ActionAid shows that promises made by the world’s governments to tackle poverty are failing to deliver because the basic rights of women in the developing world are being ignored.
In a speech to the UN last summer, where he launched a ‘call to action’ on poverty, Gordon Brown described this situation as a "development emergency".
ActionAid’s latest report “Hit or Miss - Women’s Rights and the Millennium Development Goals” argues that the only way these promises can be met is if tackling discrimination against women and girls is put at the heart of the global response.
Eight years on from the goals being agreed progress is patchy and the goals are off track. Women in the developing world are paying the price.
The report charges that governments and international donors are sidelining women in development programmes, despite the fact they’re disproportionately disadvantaged in all the key areas covered by the goals – from health and education to income and political participation:
- Women and girls account for just over half of the world’s population, but form a large majority of poor and hungry people
- 41 million girls worldwide are still denied a primary education and two thirds of the world’s illiterate young people are women.
- In Pakistan and India, girls have a 30-50% higher chance of dying before their fifth birthday than boys.
- Women and children in Africa spend 40 billion hours collecting water per year – equivalent to a year’s labour for France’s entire workforce.
The least progress has been made in maternal care and sexual health. In 2008, women in the developing world continue to die of pregnancy related causes at the rate of one a minute, and in Africa, women account for 75% of all young people living with HIV and Aids.
Not being able to own land, earn a decent income or being one of the 41 million girls denied a primary education all help to lock women into a poverty trap.
Laura Turquet, Women’s Rights Policy Officer at ActionAid said: “Gordon Brown announced that 2008 will be the year of action on world poverty. But progress can only be accelerated if the world’s governments tackle the real reasons why women are being left behind.”
A major meeting of world leaders, initiated by Gordon Brown in New York this September, will take stock of progress on the international development goals. ActionAid is calling for the Prime Minister to push for more ambitious and specific targets on women and girls and to make aid a more effective tool in achieving equality and empowerment.
The UK government has positioned itself as a moral and political leader on development issues on the global stage. If Gordon Brown steps up to the challenge these targets can be hit by 2015 and save countless lives.
Laura Turquet continued: "Getting the goals back on track is about more than governments saving face. Fundamentally it's about women realising their basic human rights. As the lack of progress on maternal health shows, people’s lives are at stake.”