Mind the Gender gap: Accelerating gender commitments in the MDGs and shaping the post 2015 development framework

 

 

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION:

 

This position paper has been prepared by the African women’s rights regional steering group on the post 2015 development framework comprising, FEMNET, AAWORD, EASSI, WiLDAF-WA, Southern African Development Community (SADC) Gender Protocol Alliance, Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) in partnership with International Planned Parenthood Federation - African Regional Office (IPPF-ARO), Oxfam and Urgent Action Fund - Africa. This paper builds on discussions from the African women’s regional consultation in Monrovia on October 21 - 22, 2012. It aims to provide the basis for further discussions with civil society formations in Africa around the post 2015 development framework as well as foreground an acceleration plan for the implementation of gender commitments within the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In particular, we hope that this position paper will be useful during ongoing national, regional and international consultations on post 2015 Development framework. It is hoped that these discussions will help in furthering the development and prioritization of women’s rights concerns in the post 2015 development framework. This paper is structured around two major sections. The first section offers an understanding of the major conceptual gaps in the formulation of the MDGs and how this has in turn impacted on both the ability and commitment to meeting gender priorities. In view of the 2015 expiration date, concise recommendations are offered to aid the acceleration of what we define as ‘minimum’ gender commitments. The second section focuses on the post 2015 development framework by laying down the lowest common denominators both in terms of conceptual imperatives for a new development framework and gender priorities after 2015.

 

GENDER IN THE MDGs:

The MDGsi have been the central reference point for global development efforts since they were established as international targets in 2000. As the first global policy vision based on mutual accountability between developing and developed countries, the MDGs have had unprecedented success in drawing attention to poverty as an urgent global priority. By articulating the complex challenges of development in 8 goals and concrete targets for 2015, MDGs have been a key feature of the new aid architecture that was put in place in the late 1990s.

The gains notwithstanding, the simplification and focus on quantification rather than quality have reduced the development agenda to meeting basic material needs, stripped of the Millennium Declaration’s vision for development with social justice and human rights (Fukuda-Parr, 2012; UNECA, 2012; UNDESA et al, 2012). Little if any focus has been placed on equity, empowerment of people and building sustainable productive capacity for economic growth. Spatial (e.g., rural versus urban), vertical (high-income versus low-income groups) and horizontal (differences in access to socio-economic services across cultural/ethnic groups) 2

 

inequality, manifested in part, by disparities in access to social services are some of the equity variables that were ignored in the current MDGs (UNECA, 2012: 5). The impact of the financial, food crisis and environmental crisis, which have roughly coincided this period have also had implications and consequences for the MDGs.

Ahead of the 2015 deadline, there is consensus around the interconnectedness of all development goals with key inter-linkages between education, health, poverty reduction, and gender equality, where improvement in one area has a positive effect on the others”. Indeed, in the same way that education has positive effects on health, poverty reduction and elimination of hunger, as well as on gender equality, each, in turn, has a positive effect on education (ECE et al, 2012; Grown et al, 2005).

However, gender targets continue to be a moving goal with inequalities persisting in many countries and contexts. Some examples below are illustrative:

 

1. Other than goal eight (women’s empowerment and gender equality) the only gender-specific indicators relate to maternal mortality. Gender dimensions of the other goals are not mentioned, and therefore not likely to be measured. For example, there is no requirement that there be gender balance in the halving of the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 per day; or in ensuring equal access to secure tenure for the 100 million slum dwellers to be assisted (Moolman, 2005).

 

2. Data on the extent and depth of poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa are largely estimates, and while they may be useful for understanding overall poverty, they do not provide much insight into the gendered nature of the underlying causes and incidence of poverty. They tend to be based primarily on consumption and income information collected at the household level. They are not, however, disaggregated by sex and therefore are unable to reflect gender-based inequities within households (Grown et al, 2005)

 

3. There has been least progress on MDG 5 to reduce maternal mortality, the goal that most depends on achieving gender equality and realizing women’s rights. Inequalities and discrimination based on income, location, disability and ethnicity intersect with gender and are often mutually reinforcing.

 

4. The elimination of gender disparity in primary and secondary education while a laudable goal does not account for the real challenges impacting on retention in school such as poorer performance by girls at secondary level as a result of teenage pregnancies; dual roles at home and at school; as well as glaring disparities at vocational and tertiary level.

5. Four glaring shortcomings include the absence of specific targets and indicators on gender-based violence a pandemic in itself but which also fuels the spread of HIV/AIDS. The second is the lack of discussion on the need to guarantee women’ sexual, reproductive health and rights. The third concerns women’s ownership and control of property as well as the protection of women’s labour which is found overwhelmingly in the unstable informal economy and finally the absence of a peace and security target anchored in a human security framework.

 

With the 2015 expiry date of the MDGs rapidly approaching it has become clear that the attempts to merge a mainstreaming approach whilst making gender equality a stand alone goal has resulted in a mixed bag with multiple gaps as noted above. However, these are challenges that can only be effectively dealt with in a new development framework. In the context of the current MDGs we push for the pursuit of following concrete priorities by African states: 3

 

 

1. Ensure access to gender equitable, free quality primary education and improved school environments by increasing the number of trained and qualified female teachers.

 

2. Accelerate the implementation of commitments to women’s reproductive health made most notably in the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women, the Maputo Plan of Action as well as in other regional and international instruments.

 

3. Prioritize the provision of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services to ‘marginalized’ groups which include, but is not limited to: women and girl refugees, rural women, immigrants, lesbian and bi-sexual women, transgender and intersex people, sex workers, widows and women with disabilities.

 

4. Implement Gender-Based Violence (GBV) policy reforms to ensure zero tolerance of violence against women (VAW) through transformed societal attitudes, security, legislative and health provisioning system.

 

5. Strengthen and consolidate women’s participation, skills and expertise in all forms of the media and to eliminate media coverage that condones gender stereotyping and myths by redressing relevant laws on freedom of information and communication.

 

6. Redress the gaps in women’s employment to ensure equitable income redistribution, land reform, gender and child-responsive budgeting.

 

7. Centre women’s indigenous knowledge in ongoing climate change conversations, including the design and implementation of climate change coping mechanisms, to assist in the development of alternative sustainability mechanisms for both rural and urban women.

 

8. Accelerate women’s economic empowerment through the elimination of barriers that prevent women’s access to infrastructure, credit and markets.

 

9. Implement gender parity laws in existing regional and international commitments by ensuring an enabling environment for women in order to realize equal participation, representation and inclusion in decision-making, leadership and governance, peace building and post conflict reconstruction processes.

 

10. Ensure government responsibility and accountability to women’s rights, by implementing and fast-tracking laws, as contained in various international and African regional women instruments, for the full enjoyment of these rights, including the elimination of discrimination

 

MIND THE GAP: POST 2015 DEVELOPMENT FRAMEWORK

The post 2015 development framework must redress the ideological assumptions inherent in the formulation of the current MDGs. Below are a number of critical conceptual pillars that must be embedded in the future development framework.

1. Recognise Africa as a powerhouse: Africa is a continent endowed with rich natural resources, mineral wealth and human resources, which if managed well are capable of facilitating equitable and sustainable development for its citizens. Africa currently exhibits the high rates of economic growth and coupled with a steadily growing innovative young population in the world. If harnessed, this coupled with growing uptake of information and communication technology will yield significant progress towards development for all.

2. Human and Women’s Rights principles must anchor the new development framework, enabling less focus on economic growth thereby taking into account the social and political dynamics that account for both vertical and horizontal structural inequalities.

 

3. Transformative global financial and political systems are central to redressing current skewed global dynamics that have hampered the effective implementation of global

 

 

 

development frameworks including the MDGs. The unbalanced global economic system and its out-dated set of rules heavily disadvantage Africa. Bloated subsidy regimes, quotas, as well as high tariff and non-tariff barriers constrain its potential to escape unfavourable trading patterns and diversify its economies.

 

4. Governance, peace and security remain critical to an environment conducive to equitable growth and development. In recognition of the underlying assumptions inherent in past and current development frameworks including the MDGs, we urge that attention be paid to the following key recommendations as part of the global development agenda setting process

 

5. African governments are the key actors and accountable for driving development and growth.

 

In practical terms, the resolution of the conceptual, qualitative and quantitative gaps highlighted in the MDGs can be resolved through a prioritization of the following minimum outcomes as part of a global development framework, recognizing that national iterations of these priorities will be essential.

I. ACCESSIBLE UNIVERSAL PRIMARY EDUCATION AND STRENGTHENING OF POST PRIMARY EDUCATION

 

A major frontier yet to be crossed with the increase of girls in primary schools and, to a lesser extent, secondary schools, is the need to remove barriers to entry in tertiary education and skill-building opportunities, as well as ensure equal access to the job market. Education is one of the ways through which attitudinal and behavioural changes can be realised and stereotypes challenged, interrogated and new practices introduced in society. However, the current interventions have mainly focused on bridging the gender gap in primary, secondary and, to a lesser extent, tertiary education (See FEMNET, 2010).

The need to create incentives that will ensure the retention of highly skilled labour within the continent remains critical. Tracer studies are extremely important to identify the trends in employment access for female and male graduates/ trainees, for example. This data is not readily available in most countries in Africa and the problem of brain drain is still a reality for many countries (See FEMNET, 2010).

OUTCOMES:

 Address barriers that negate the retention of girls in school which include but are not limited to: gender-based violence, harmful cultural practices, and prohibitive and hidden costs to universal primary education.

 Prioritize post-primary education, including free secondary education, targeted scholarships and more affordable tertiary education and non-formal education for girls.

 

 Invest in educational infrastructure and the building of schools close to communities to ensure the involvement of the community in school management.

 

 Plan for flexibility in educational scheduling and make schools girl-friendly by improving the safety of schools, the design of facilities (such as latrines for girls), instituting policies that promote girls’ attendance (such as permitting married adolescents and adolescent mothers to attend), providing gender-sensitive textbooks, and developing a curriculum for girls that is strong in math and sciences and that projects gender equality concepts.

 

 Ensure parity between male and female teachers at all levels of education

 

 

 

II. WOMEN’S HEALTH AND ZERO TOLERANCE ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

 

In sub-Saharan Africa, young women aged 15–24 years are as much as eight times more likely than men to be living with HIV. Young women in rural South Africa who experienced sexual abuse in childhood had a 66% greater risk of HIV infection compared to young women who had not been abused (Jewkes et al, 2010). Violence against womenii and girls is a cause and consequence of the spread of HIV. The proportion of women who have experienced physical or sexual violence, or both, by an intimate partner in their lifetime, ranges from 15% to 71% (UNAIDS, 2010). A large body of evidence shows that sexual and reproductive health and rights are central to women’s ability to build their capabilities, take advantage of economic and political opportunities, and claim their agency (Grown et al, 2005; FEMNET, 2010). Today, these rights are threatened by actions to limit and withdraw funding from effective reproductive health programs, censor or distort information and research on comprehensive health interventions and issues.

 

Access to quality family planning services that provide women with a range of contraceptive options and informed choice helps reduce high-risk pregnancies associated with multiple pregnancies and helps women avoid unwanted and unsafe abortions (Lule et al, 2003). One result of high levels of unmet need in some regions of the world is a high incidence of unsafe abortions. Of the 20 million unsafe abortions that WHO (1998b) estimates occur annually, worldwide, an estimated 70,000 result in death, accounting for 13 percent of the overall maternal mortality rate. Evidence suggests that reducing the unmet need for contraception would reduce the need to resort to abortion, thereby improving maternal health and female longevity. WHO estimates that safe abortion services could prevent at least 13 percent of maternal deaths worldwide (WHO, 1998b).

 

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (DEVAW), the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing World Conference and Platform for Action (1995), UNSCR 1325, 1888, 1889, the UN Secretary General’s 2006 report on violence against women and subsequent annual reports and General Assembly resolutions, the formation of the UN Inter-Agency Task Force and now the Secretary General’s UNiTE to End Violence Against Women Campaign 2008-2015, the Maputo protocol, the African Union gender policy and provision within the African Union’s peace and security architecture are all adequate frameworks for making national governments accountable for commitments they have made internationally on zero tolerance

on VAW as well as access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health rights.

OUTCOMES:

 Universal access to quality, gender-responsive, holistic health care information, services and commodities for the physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls, supported and enforced through legislation, policy and programmes.

 

 Cost the interventions needed and strategies required to address violence against women including the building and allocation of shelters and the enforcement of laws.

 

 Develop minimum standards to ensure effective, appropriate and sustainable service provision to victims of VAW, across security, correctional and health sectors.

 

 

 

 Identify the cost of, and provide minimal resources required for the provision of, quality continuum of care service provision, which includes prevention, support and response mechanisms, for victims of violence.

 Include indicators on reducing the incidence of unsafe abortions as a means to reducing maternal mortality rates and to mobilise for informed change in policy.

 

III. GUARANTEE WOMEN’S AND GIRLS’ PROPERTY RIGHTS:

 

Women represent fewer than 5 percent of all agricultural holders in the countries in North Africa for which data are available while the sub-Saharan African average of 15 percent masks wide variations, from fewer than 5 percent in Mali to over 30 percent in countries such as Botswana, Cape Verde and Malawi. In addition to being more likely to hold land, men also typically control larger land holdings than women (FAO, 2011). Strengthening women’s access to land and security of tenure has direct impacts on farm productivity, and can also have far-reaching implications for improving household welfare. Financial services such as savings, credit and insurance also provide opportunities for improving agricultural output, food security and economic vitality at the household, community and national levels. Many studies have shown that improving women’s direct access to financial resources leads to higher investments in human capital in the form of children’s health, nutrition and education (See Fletschner, 2009; World Bank, FAO and IFAD, 2009)

OUTCOMES:

 Eliminate discrimination of girls and women under the law: review and reform all national legislation that relates to land and natural resources. Related legislation such as family and marriage laws, equal rights to inheritance and housing law are all important legal areas that play a supporting role in ensuring equitable treatment of men and women, boys and girls in control over property such as land.

 

 Empower women to claim their property rights: by raising women’s legal literacy, increasing the dissemination and accessibility of information and establishing supportive legal services

 

IV. SOCIAL EXCLUSION: ACCELERATING WOMEN’S ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT

 

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) informal employment accounts for 70% of non-agricultural employment in sub Saharan Africa and women are dominant in the informal sector. About 84% of the female non-agricultural workers are in the informal sector compared to 63% of men (ILO decent work agenda in Africa-2007-2015). Most informal workers do not enjoy secure work benefits and social protection (Grown et al, 2005)

The lack of a regular income is particularly risky for female-headed households and those living with HIV and AIDS. Many of the informal sector workers cannot afford to pay premiums for the social protection schemes. Lack of awareness and lack of trust also limits the participation in social protection schemes where they exist. Coverage of schemes introduced by government and civil society has been so far inadequate.

Cultural stereotypes about men and women’s work govern the role women can play in cultivating commercial crops and marketing produce. Women tend to be confined to petty trading, buying and selling small volumes directly for retail in local markets, while men tend to predominate in wholesaling into regional and international markets (Grown et al, 2005; FAO, 7

 

2011). As traders, women face challenges posed by inadequate transport infrastructure as well as social restrictions over their mobility. In modern value chains, men are concentrated in more remunerative and permanent positions since they generally control household land and labour, while women predominate as temporary wage earners or casual labourers in agro- industries. (Grown et al, 2005)

Women’s work, both paid and unpaid, is critical to the survival and security of poor households and an important route through which households escape poverty. Moreover, paid employment is critical to women’s empowerment. In settings where women’s mobility is restricted, increased employment opportunities can improve women’s mobility and enable women to seek and access reproductive health care. It can also expose them to new ideas and knowledge and broaden the community with which they engage (Grown et al, 2005).

OUTCOMES:

 

 Design products to strengthen women’s position such as: loans for purchasing land or houses requiring that they be registered in women’s names, loans for businesses that employ women, or for businesses that offer services such as child care that benefit other women.

 

 Conceptualize and draft income and social policies that account for: registration/protection of informal work, effective compliance with legislation on minimum wage and anti-discriminatory clauses, state support for smallholder agriculture, ensure labour is appropriately compensated in a largely globalized economy where its bargaining power has been reduced.

 

 Develop and implement social protection programmes to protect against income shocks including due to illness, old age, disasters and market risks.

 

 Provide accessible and good quality infrastructure, domestic technology and care services to support women’s production of labour and to reduce the unpaid care work undertaken primarily by women and girls.

 

 Recognise women as key actors in trade including cross-border trade by strengthening infrastructure, access to information, skills in value additions and linking women to markets.

 

 Redistribute wealth/income through, gender- and child-responsive budgeting, adequate corporate taxation, progressive income taxation, and pro-poor fiscal and trade policies.

 

 Promote rural economy and development by increasing investment in the agricultural sector, subsidising agricultural and pastoralist inputs for women farmers and bringing quality and affordable services closer to the community

 

V. GOVERNANCE, PEACE AND SECURITY:

 

The nature of violent conflicts has changed dramatically in recent decades. The predominant form of violent conflict has evolved from national armies fighting each other (inter-state wars); to armies fighting for independence, separation or political control (intra-state or civil wars); to various forms of violence, involving non-state actors such as rebels, gangs and organized crime (PBSO, 2012).

The drivers of violence often include a wide range of factors, including political, economic, social and environmental issues. They can include socio- economic inequalities, injustice, joblessness, 8

 

natural resources management, human rights abuse, political exclusion and corruption. In many cases, it is difficult to define clear causes and the roles of different factors are interrelated and might morph and change over time (PBSO, 2012).The multidimensionality of the drivers of the conflicts also implies that addressing them requires a multidimensional approach that spans the development, political, security and justice areas. The different dimensions are interdependent.

 

A focus on, inter alia, justice, human rights, horizontal inequalities, jobs and inclusive politics has been noted to begin to reduce the risk of violence. Consequently, the increased participation of women in positions of decision-making across the board is now a widely held development goal. In addition, United Nations resolutions 1325, 1888, 1889 have also upped the ante with regard to the contributions of women in post conflict reconstruction and transformation. In this regard, the expanded notion of security that is centered on human security enables a holistic focus on the security threats faced by citizens on a daily basis and moves us away from a unilateral emphasis on state centric security.

OUTCOMES:

 

 Centre human security as a central pillar and enabler for women’s participation, contribution and leadership in peace building, reconstruction and early warning systems and conflict transformation.

 

 Comply with and implement gender sensitive principles in line with regional policy frameworks such as the African Union’s Security Sector Reform policy framework.

 

 Catalyse women’s participation, representation and leadership in decision making across the public and private sector through the development of special measures and implementing existing commitments to gender parity.

 

VI. ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY:

 

Climate change has resulted in a variety of direct problems, including increased frequency of extreme weather events, flooding, storms, drought, desertification, increases in sea temperatures, heat and cold waves, the melting of glaciers and permafrost. These developments have significant ecological, social, economic and political impacts, including effects on food production, water availability amongst others. Conflicts arising from resource scarcity, destroyed livelihoods and increasing number of migrants and refugees are also likely to rise.

 

Although climate change affects everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, gender and level of income, its impact magnifies existing inequalities. The consequences of climate change are closely related to the context in which individuals or groups experience the changes. A vulnerability approach to climate change enables the identification, delineation and understanding of both the driving forces and how to decrease vulnerability at all scales” (Cutter, 2003:7).

 

For instance, historically marginalized groups vulnerability is heightened in high-risk areas given their dependency on climate sensitive resources such as local water and food supplies (See IPCC 2007). In general, women have less access to resources that are essential in disaster preparedness, mitigation and rehabilitation. Gendered divisions of labor often result in the over- representation of women in agricultural and informal sectors, which are more vulnerable to disasters. Women are also overwhelming responsible for reproductive tasks such as food collection and energy supply for the household as well as many care-giving tasks, such as 9

 

caring for the children, sick, elderly, the home and assets.

Women usually have fewer assets than men to recover from natural disasters, and usually do not own land that can be sold to secure income in an emergency. This compounds the adaptability to climate change through the lack of safe land, water, limited access to material and financial resources, lack of relevant skills and knowledge, high prices of agricultural inputs and other materials, and cultural barriers limiting women’s access to services (Mitchell et al., 2007).

RECOMMENDATIONS:

 

 Draw on women’s adaptive capacities in climate change adaption strategies by recognising indigenous knowledge on agricultural practices: e.g. switching to other crops and varieties that are flood or drought resistant, multiple cropping and intercropping practices, alternative irrigation facilities, mixing fertile with sandy soil, changing cultivation to more easily marketable crop varieties or to other animals.

 

 Improve women’s access to energy-saving: use of alternative energy-related technologies (solar, biogas, improved cooking stoves);

 

 Improve women’s access to alternative sources of energy other than traditional biofuels can reduce their time burdens, exposure to indoor air pollution, and other risks to their health.

 

 Enhance institutional capacity to mainstream gender in global and national climate change and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) policies and operations through the development of gender policies, gender awareness, internal and external gender capacity and expertise, and the development and application of relevant mechanisms and tools.

 

 Conduct gender-specific vulnerability assessments, and apply a gender analysis to global climate change policies and institutional mechanisms.

 

 Develop gender-sensitive indicators for use by governments in national reports to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and related policies and mechanisms.

 

 Create gender-specific disaster reduction policies to address the effects of climate change in disaster-prone areas, as well as pragmatic national and international interventions to ensure food, energy and water security, economic resilience and security of place/habitat, particularly for poor and migrating women and their families.

 

 

OVERARCHING CONCERNS:

 

1. The donor-centric view that shaped the pursuit of MDGs has to be shifted in the new development framework with greater responsibility placed on national governments. The success or failure in the pursuit of MDGs depends largely upon what happens within countries, where governments are both responsible and accountable for outcomes.

 

2. Internal resource mobilization: remittances from citizens in the diaspora have been noted to be a much larger and more stable source of external financing than aid inflows. It is essential for strategies and policies to be developed in tandem with local Ministries of finance that could more effectively use remittances for development.

 

3. Regional integration agenda: Now is the time to maximize on the regional integration agenda within the African Union in particular as a means to move away from unidirectional or asymmetrical relationships between industrialized countries and developing countries.

 

4. Quantity versus quality: the reluctance to increase qualitative indicators to revised MDG scenario (plus) impacts most critically on the gendered dimensions of the MDG’s for which the development of indicators require nuance and the collection of data. This requires a dedication of both financial and human resources.

 

5. The aid effectiveness agenda: serves as an essential component of any future development framework and impacts on the external and internal environments within which the success of the development agenda can be measured. A comprehensive solution to the debt problem of the developing world is required in order to enable the creation of a multilateral trading system and international financial system that are conducive to development. In this way a resolution is found to unfair rules of the game in the contemporary world economy that are part of the World Trade Organisation regime, as well as those implicit in IMF-World Bank conditionalities and current foreign aid policies.

 

 

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i Goal 1: Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty; Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education; Goal 3: Promote gender quality and empower women; Goal 4: Reduce child mortality; Goal 5: Improve maternal health; Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases; Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability; Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development

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