MDG 3, the promotion of gender equality and women's empowerment, is the only Millennium Development Goal that is both a goal in itself and is recognized as essential to the achievement of all other Millennium Development Goals. An educated mother, for example, can have a positive impact on her child's educational opportunities. What's more, enhancing women's access to credit and finance, as well as their ability to inherit or own land, can unlock the untapped potential of women entrepreneurs.
Nonetheless, global progress on achieving MDG 3 is lagging. The target of eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005 was missed. However, by 2010, gender parity in primary education had been achieved, having risen from 91 girls for every 100 boys in 1999, to 96 girls for every 100 boys in 2008.
Eliminating gender disparity at all education levels by 2015 may still be possible, but the other indicators for MDG 3 show progress to be slow. For example, in parliamentary representation, while the global proportion of seats held by women continues to rise slowly, averaging 19 percent as of January 2010, a third of developing countries still have less than 10 percent or no female representation in parliament at all.
International bodies and partner countries recognize Canada as, historically, a leader in equality between women and men, in part because of CIDA's consistent focus, engagement, and innovation in this area. Equality between men and women is integrated into all programming CIDA undertakes in developing countries.
This theme is based on a policy of gender equality which aims to advance the participation of women in the sustainable development of their societies.
In 2010, CIDA's expertise in gender issues helped get a new organization—UN Women—off the ground. A year later, in Ottawa, CIDA and UN Women co-hosted a Conference on Women's Economic Empowerment to develop key recommendations for action to advance women's economic opportunities. In 2011-2012, CIDA provided $10 million in institutional support for UN Women.
A stronger role for women in economic decision making: CIDA's support to women in Rwanda has contributed to considerable progress for women as decision-makers in the country's rural areas. By 2009, more than 40 local partners had doubled women's participation in decision-making in targeted organizations—from 20 percent to 41 percent. The partners contributed to a successful advocacy campaign to revise the Rwandan Labour Code to include maternity benefits, and improving the population's knowledge of marital, inheritance, and property laws.
Greater equality in education: In 2001, only 700,000 Afghan children, none of whom were girls, attended formal schools. In 2009-2010, with CIDA's contribution, 6.2 million students—millionone third of them girls—were enrolled in school. The same year, 23,500 individuals received literacy training. CIDA also helped establish more than 4,000 community schools to provide basic education to 125,000 children, 85 percent of them girls.
Supporting the human rights of women and girls: In Haiti, CIDA supports Haitian organizations and institutions that promote, protect, and defend the human rights of women and girls and work to prevent violence against women. Between 2006 and 2011, CIDA helped strengthen rule of law in three pilot jurisdictions through the training of 200 magistrates, prosecutors, police officers, and lawyers on the management of sexual assault cases and youth justice. As a result, the number of minors in prison decreased by 74 percent in Jacmel and by 67 percent in Port de Paix.