A child held by her mother at a gathering to celebrate International Women's Day in El Fasher, North Darfur,
2015 will bring the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), one of which focused specifically on promoting gender parity: Goal 3. This week, delegates from the around the world are gathering at UN Headquarters to discuss the challenges and opportunities all eight goals have provided for women and girls—and how they could be addressed post-2015. That is the focus of this year’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), running from March 10th to 21st.
Last week, I spoke with Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, about what she thinks the priorities and obstacles are when it comes to empowering women and girls and achieving gender parity. What follows is a condensed and edited version of our conversation.
Ms. Puri, as the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women gets started, what do you see as the gaps and achievements in implementing the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls?
This is really the opportunity for the international community to identify how the MDGs worked or did not work for women and girls on the ground; what was in the MDGs for women and girls, even in terms of the targets and indicators; and therefore, what lessons do we take from that.
If you take the key messages from this inquiry, one is that it pays to have a separate goal on gender equality and women's empowerment, because it focuses your attention—you prioritize it. At the same time, the lesson is that what is in that goal is unfinished business. There is good progress, but there is also mixed progress.
Illiteracy is still much higher amongst girls than amongst boys. Secondary and tertiary education is still a challenge for girls. Similarly, there is only 20 percent representation of women in parliaments if you take the global average, and only in 30 countries have they exceeded 33 percent. So, it's unfinished business, even if you look at the limited number of targets and indicators that you had in MDG 3 and in other goals.
So, what does that mean? It means that we must take MDG 3 forward but in a more structurally transformative way, and we must also address the root causes of inequality and structural barriers to equality and discrimination. And that's why we are now looking to use this CSW 58 as a platform for really getting a consensus on what that next generation of gender equality, women's empowerment, and women's rights goal should be.