UN's Goals for Gender Equality Have Made Progress

As the U.N.'s global development goals face sunset, the two that particularly concern girls and women have marked progress but leave plenty of work ahead. That's especially true when it comes to reducing maternal mortality in India and Nigeria.
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UNITED NATIONS (WOMENSENEWS)-As the United Nations crosses the 15-year finish line on a set of eight international commitments to improve global living standards, known as the Millennium Development Goals, here's a quick look at the two goals that concern girls and women specifically.

Millennium Development Goal No. 3 pledged countries to level the ratio of girls to boys in all levels of school, increase the number of women in paid employment outside the agricultural sector and increase the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments.

Millennium Development Goal No. 5 pledged countries to reduce by three-quarters their 1990 figures for maternal mortality.

MDG No. 5

Overall, by 2014, the global maternal mortality rate fell by 45 percent to 210 deaths per 100,000 live births from 380 in 1990.

But that impressive statistic from the still left 300,000 women dying in 2013 from childbirth or preventable causes related to pregnancy.

The overwhelming majority of these deaths occurred in India and Nigeria, while other countries have virtually eliminated maternal mortality.

The proportion of deliveries in developing regions attended by skilled health personnel rose to 68 percent from 56 percent and nearly half of all women now have four or more post-delivery care visits (up from 37 percent in 1990).

That still leaves a huge battle left to wage, however.

In 2012, 40 million births, mostly in rural areas, were unattended. Among adolescents, the birthrate has declined in some regions more than others, but remains at 21 per 1,000 women in developed regions and 54 per 1,000 women in developing regions.

The unmet need for family planning in developing regions fell to 12 percent from 17 percent thanks to greater prevalence of contraceptives, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. That progress, however, was concentrated among the urban, well-off and educated.

MDG No. 3

Here's how the other female-sensitive goal fared.

Gender parity in school enrollment has effectively been achieved in primary education, but considerable gaps remain in secondary and higher education, especially in developing regions where the respective ratios (as of 2012) are 0.77 and 0.69.

Progress has been slow and uneven on women's access to paid employment outside of agriculture, although it has increased globally to 40 percent from 35 percent, with notable gains made in sub-Saharan Africa.

Women's political participation has risen slightly. Thanks to quotas, women now hold at least 30 percent of parliamentary seats in at least one chamber in 46 countries as of early 2014. Only five national parliaments have no women at all and the global average rose to 22 percent from 14 percent.

That the 2014 U.N. Development Report boasts of women holding more "hard" ministerial portfolios-such as defense, foreign affairs and the environment-underscores how much progress lies ahead for such a thing to seem unremarkable.

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