7-8 JUNE 2017 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Women’s empowerment post-2015

Women’s empowerment post-2015

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 16:00 to 17:30

Key points

  • While many countries have female heads of state, women are still underrepresented in government, which often results in gender equality issues taking a back seat.
  • Gender inequality and gender-based discrimination remain universal.
  • The post-2015 agenda must address gender directly with strong policies.
  • There should be increased funding for gender issues in the post-2015 agenda.
  • The post-2015 agenda should include initiatives for educating boys and men about the importance gender equality.



Since the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were agreed upon in 2000, much progress has been made to make sure women’s issues are part of the global debate on sustainable development. But how much concrete progress has there been in reaching targets? Where should women’s issues feature in the post-2015 development framework?

Women in Jamaica hold the positions of prime minister, chief justice and director of public prosecution. There are more female than male judges, the majority of teachers and health professionals are women, and there are more female than male students in universities. The country has also implemented ‘equal pay for equal work’ legislation.

In Liberia, women are recognised for the pivotal role they played in bringing the civil war to an end in 2003. Liberia’s first female President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was elected in 2005 and re-elected in 2011. Since then, Liberia has received recognition for its dedication to gender equity. Even still, today there are few women in parliament and other levels of government.

One problem is access to money. In many elections across Africa, candidates are expected to provide food and other commodities or services to the population to get elected. As men most often control household income, women are not always able to raise enough money to win elections. Many African countries can boast that they have female heads of state. But without more women in more key legislature positions to provide support, gender equality issues are rarely adequately addressed.

Efforts to achieve the MDG gender goals and targets need to be accelerated in the remaining two years leading up to 2015. A consensus emerging for the post-2015 framework is that it is important to move towards a single, universal development agenda that brings together poverty eradication and sustainable development. This is important from a gender perspective because gender inequality and gender-based discrimination are universal issues. The new framework must address gender inequality directly and ensure that gender is properly addressed through targets that will be transformative for the lives of women.

Investing in women and girls is the best investment in development. However, gender issues have been chronically underfunded: from 2009 to 2011, funding went down by 19 %. It is imperative for the global community to financially walk the walk. Monitoring and accountability are also extremely important. Targets should be chosen that will make a difference and governments must be monitored to ensure they deliver.  

Despite the progress made in some countries, the breadth and depth of gender inequality remains substantial and should not be underestimated. Gender inequality and discrimination remain pervasive. It is not an accident: it is part of a system that men have created. It will be extremely important to educate boys and men that gender equality benefits everyone in society.



Gender mainstreaming – bringing a gender perspective into existing frameworks – has been criticised as having led to the abandonment of gender-specific policies that favoured women. It has been called a ‘one size fits all’ that does not allow for rethinking of issues to find something new. This uniform approach has been helpful in some areas but not in others. It may be time to change the approach.