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close this bookPoverty Elimination and the Empowerment of Women (DFID, 2000, 51 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe international development targets
View the documentDepartment for International Development
View the documentForeword by the Secretary of State
View the documentExecutive Summary
Open this folder and view contents1. Introduction
Open this folder and view contents2. The challenge
Open this folder and view contents3. Experience to date
Open this folder and view contents4. Meeting the challenge
Open this folder and view contents5. Priorities for DFID
View the document6. Monitoring progress
View the documentAnnex: Global and regional indicators of development progress for the international development targets
View the documentBack Cover

Executive Summary

1 The empowerment of women is an essential precondition for the elimination of world poverty and the upholding of human rights. This goal is recognised in the internationally agreed set of development targets which provide the core framework for DFID's programme.

2 A key measure for gender equality relates to education, and the need to ensure that girls get the same opportunities as boys to develop their potential and become full and equal members of society. The target is that "progress towards gender equality and the empowerment of women should be demonstrated by eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2005"1.

1 Shaping the 21st Century: The Contribution of Development Co-operation. Development Assistance Committee, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Paris, May 1996.

3 Research has shown that education for girls is the single most effective way of reducing poverty. Women with even a few years of basic education have smaller, healthier families; are more likely to be able to work their way out of poverty; and are more likely to send their own daughters and sons to school.

4 Getting more girls through school is essential, but education alone will not be enough. Inequalities between women and men are deeply rooted, and need to be tackled across the board in economic, political, social and cultural life. The goal of gender equality needs to be pursued across all of the internationally agreed development targets, and in the wider pursuit of democracy and human rights.

5 This paper sets out the reasons why women's empowerment is a precondition for poverty eradication, and the steps DFID proposes to take in making its contribution to the achievement of this goal, It signals an important shift in DFID priorities. Future work will concentrate on supporting fundamental changes in policy, laws, and attitudes, while maintaining strategic links with work at the grass roots. Our strategy will seek to ensure that a commitment to gender equality remains in the mainstream of all of our work.

6 In 1995, the United Nations hosted the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing. This was a landmark conference, and ended with international agreement to the implementation of a comprehensive Platform for Action for gender equality and the empowerment of women.

7 Great progress was made in the 20th century. Women enjoy greater freedom and power than ever before. Nevertheless, they still lag behind men in virtually all aspects of life. Inequalities are to be found in economic development and livelihood security, in human development, human rights, personal security, and empowerment and political representation, all reinforced by gender stereotyping and negative social attitudes. Gender gaps vary from place to place, but the overall pattern of women s disadvantage remains clear. Gender inequality represents a huge loss of human potential, with costs for men as well as women.

8 Progress towards equality between women and men is not dependent on whether a country is rich or poor, or on its religious or cultural heritage. Some developing countries outperform much richer countries in the opportunities they make available to women2. Sustained political will lies at the heart of success, but this needs to be supported in a number of key ways. Good policy ideas have too often 'evaporated' in the course of implementation, leading to outcomes falling far short of intentions.

2 Human Development Report, 1999. United Nations Development Programme, New York.

9 A key lesson is that fundamental change can only be achieved through interventions which focus on major policy reforms, changes to laws and regulations, the reallocation of financial and other resources, and the promotion of changes in attitude through public debate.

10 Co-ordinated action is also essential for success. Donors have an important but modest role to play. Real change will result from the concerted actions of governments, civil society, and the private sector, underpinned by stronger and more effective support from bilateral and multilateral donors and development organisations. Although a global sense of common purpose is emerging, there remains much to be done to close gaps in understanding and increase co-operation. This is true both at a government to government level, and also between the state and civil society. Within the donor community, there is also significant scope for improvement.

11 The purpose of DFID's strategy is to ensure that women's empowerment and gender equality are actively pursued in the mainstream of all development activities. Our work will be focused on supporting the achievement of 10 specific objectives, consistent with the internationally agreed development targets and the Platform for Action set out at the Beijing conference. These provide a broad framework for action from which operational priorities can be drawn, depending on the situation on the ground.

12 DFID will support actions through three channels:

support to governments, civil society, and the private sector for the accelerated implementation of the Platform for Action agreed at Beijing and the inclusion of gender equality goals in the mainstream of all development programmes;

stronger collaboration and co-ordination for the achievement of gender equality goals among donors, including the European Union, UN system, and the World Bank and other international financial institutions;

the strengthening of DFID's internal capacity through improved research and knowledge development, information support, and skills development.

13 The strategy set out in this paper is broad-based, and the framework for measuring progress towards the achievement of the specific objectives to which DFID is committed is necessarily broad too. At its heart, however, are the International Development Targets and the key indicators which have been identified to measure progress towards the achievement of these. Whenever possible, we will seek to break down these measures to analyse how benefits are being shared between women and men, boys and girls. Clear targets and measures of progress are essential, to focus minds, to provide encouragement when progress is made, and to strengthen co-ordination around common goals.