Week 15: MDGs Progress

Since the creation of the Millennium Development Goals, there has been a lot of speculation about how much progress the MDGs have actually made in eradicating poverty and solving the issues that plague developing countries. This past semester, we have focused on Sub-Saharan Africa. A United Nations 2014 Progress Chart was created that shows the current conditions of these countries after the ten-year period of MDGs ended. According to this report, in Sub-Saharan Africa there is still very high poverty, a very large deficit, high hunger, moderate enrollment in primary schooling, nearly equal enrollment for girls in primary school, a medium share of paid employment for women, moderate representation in national parliaments for women, a high mortality rate of children, a very high mortality rate for maternal mortality, low access to reproductive health, high reduction of HIV/AIDS, moderate mortality involving tuberculosis, low coverage of improved drinking water, very low sanitation, a very high population of slum-dwellers, and a moderate amount of Internet users. Although the progress for each of the goals has been averaged for the purpose of the report, it is still alarming how little improvement there appears to have been.

Participants in the Malawi Poverty Alleviation Food Security Program.

A country we have discussed in class is Malawi. Malawi has both shown improvement and has stayed the same in categories of the MDGs. In Goal #1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger, Malawi has shown little change and as of a report in 2014, the goal was said to be unlikely to be met, although the proportion of ultra poor people was halved by 2014. Goal #2: Achieve Universal Primary Education was also said to be unlikely to be met, although both the net enrollment in primary schooling and the literacy rate slightly increased. Goal #3: Promote Gender Equity and Empower Women was a third goal unlikely to be met, although the ratio of girls to boys in primary and secondary education increased slightly and the proportion of seats held by women in parliament doubled. Goal #5: Improve Maternal Health was the final goal said to be unlikely to be met, although the proportion of births assisted by skilled health professionals increased.
The other 4 goals were said to be likely to be met by 2015. In Goal #4: Reduce Child Mortality, the under-five mortality rate per 1000 decreased drastically and so did the infant mortality rate. In Goal #6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Other Diseases, the HIV prevalence among young pregnant women decreased by 3 times and access to malaria treatment tripled. The death rates associated with tuberculosis also decreased by a lot. In Goal #7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability, the proportion of land covered by forest decreased instead of increasing, but access to improved sanitation and access to an improved water source increased by a large amount. In Goal #8: Develop Global Partnership for Development, both cellular subscriptions and Internet users increased greatly, along with net ODA as a percentage of real GDP.

I think it’s very positive that Malawi has seen such an improvement with half of the goals, but now it’s time to focus on the other 4 goals. I think that a lot of the focus should be put on achieving education and gender equality because with more young people in schools and working, child marriage and the high maternity rate won’t be an issue as they will be contributing to society and not forced into having more children at a young age and having that be their whole life. This will also help the child mortality rate as young women won’t be having children that they can’t care for properly because of low access to healthcare. In my opinion, the progress of each country should be looked at on a case by case basis as every country has different struggles. A different plan needs to be formulated for each country’s specific issues so that the MDGs can be achieved to their full capacity.


Week 15: MDG and Zambia

Center for Global Development (CGD) analyses trends of countries of how they have fared against the eight core Millennium Development Goals (MDG) targets: extreme poverty, hunger, education, gender, child mortality, maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS, and water. The key findings include:

  • Capture

    Map of world with progress scores

    Low- Versus Middle-Income Country Performance

  • Indicator Performance Trends
  • Country Changes
  • Absolute Country Performance
  • Data Challenges

Zambia Progress Report (CGD)

Low-income countries, such as Zambia, progress toward the MDGs improved modestly while middle income countries’ performance declined.  Low-income countries improved, on average on four core MDG targets: extreme poverty, hunger, HIV/AIDS, and child mortality.  Yet, performance declined modestly for three core targets: education, gender equality, and child mortality.

Zambia received a score of 2.5 out of 8 on their MDG progress. The score is set up by a scale of 0 to 1. The scorecard on the left shows the MDG progress for Zambia, according to the data from Center for Global Development

  • 0 = Not met the MDG requirement
  • 0.5 = Not met but close to meeting the MDG requirement
  • 1 = Met the MDG requirement

Another source of MDG indicators is the MDG Progress Reports for each country provided by the United Nations Development Programme.  The latest report and data is from 2013.  Overall the progress to reach the targets is encouraging, yet Zambia is still confronted by challenges that hold back key policy and institutional reforms, and consequently the overall pace of implementation.

Map of Zambia

MDG 1: Extreme poverty is decreasing but at a very slow rate.  For MDG 1, different organization have presented different results about Zambia’s performs with eradicating extreme poverty.  I believe part of the problem is how you measure extreme poverty and where it occurs.  Although the proportion of Zambian living in extreme poverty has declined in the past decade, the proportion of rural Zambians in extreme poverty has increased.

MDG 2: Universal primary education is within reach. Zambia has made steady progress on primary school enrolment, which has increased from 80 percent in 1990 to 93 7 percent in 2010. The improvement can be linked to the boost in primary education infrastructure and the introduction of free education.

MDG 3: Gender equality and the empowerment of women require special measures.  On the positive, Zambia is on track to achieve gender parity in primary school enrollment as well as in literacy among 15-24-year old.  The negative is the country has moved backwards on women’s participation in government in both local councils.

Children of Zambia

MDG 4: Child mortality remains high.  Child mortality has declined by almost 30 percent since 1992, but is still unacceptable high. The mortality rate of children under five dropped from 190.7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1992 to 137.6 per 1000 live births in 2010.

MDG 5: Improving maternal health requires renewed emphasis.   Although maternal mortality in Zambia has been falling, the decline is insufficient to reach the 2015 target of 162.3 deaths per 100,000 live births.   Interventions that have been successful, and need to be scaled up, include improved use of contraception for birth spacing, prevention of early marriages, and the deployment of more trained midwives and birth attendants.

MDG 6: Gains on HIV&AIDS, malaria and other major diseases must not be lost.  Zambia has already surpassed the MDG target for number of Zambians infected with HIV.  Therefore, the focus must be redirected to prevention.  The fact that HIV incidence is higher in women than in men demonstrates that the underlying causes of income and gender inequality need to be addressed as well.

MDG 7: Gaining lost ground on environmental sustainability.  Land covered by forests in Zambia reduced from 59.8 percent in 1990 to 49.9 percent in 2010. This decline stems from over-exploitation through logging for wood fuel and encroachment for agriculture and settlements.  Zambia has however observed improvements in the provision of clean water, although the proportion of the population without access to improved sanitation facilities is not getting any better.

MDG 8: An evolving global partnership for development as Zambia transitions to a middle-income country.  Zambia has implemented reforms since the 1990s that have seen the development of a fairly open, rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory trading and financial system.  The country has also graduated from a low-income to a lower middle-income country, which means the country now has less access to concessional lending and overseas development assistance.

My main critique of the MDG is how expansive they are in scope.  The goals try to tackle development of lower income countries by trying to improve every aspect of development at once.  The two focuses of the development goals should be economics and education.  Stronger partnerships and domestic financing, with strong support from the private sector, are key to furthering improvements in living standards.  In previous post, the overall theme in regards to promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women comes down to education.  Education in turn will improve health and ultimately, the quality of life.

Week 14: Women and the Economy

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women produced the The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly.  By accepting the Convention, states commit to:

  • Principle of equality of men and women in their legal system
  • Establish tribunals to ensure effective protection of women against discrimination
  • Elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organizations or enterprises

The Convention has helped raise global awareness of discrimination of women in the highest level of global governance.  By committing to the Convention, a state must submit a country report every four years.  A shortcoming is getting countries to honor their commitments made in closing the gender gap.  Even though a state signs on to the commitment, there is no framework to force cooperation.  Again, these policies are at a national level, when in reality the local level is where women are more likely to be affected by a gap in women’s rights.

Woman tests groundnut sheller

In Zambia, work is being done to protect women’s land rights.  Although formal law, such as the Constitution and the Lands Act supports property rights and prohibits gender-based discrimination, customary rules and practices often discriminate against women when it comes to access and control over land.

Education and challenging laws at the lower levels need to be done, to close the gap.  More sustainable gender equality work by NGOs and governments that comes from the tribal level with work its way up into the national level.  Rural parts of Africa are controlled by tribes and sometimes national laws have limited reach to tribal custom, legally and socially.

Economic opportunity is one of the best equalizers to shrink the gap.  Some challenges and constraints for women reaching their full economic potential include:

  • Women contribute substantially to economic welfare through large amounts of unpaid work, such as child-rearing and household tasks, which often remains unseen and unaccounted for in GDP
  • Gender differences in paid working hours and participation in part time work remain significant
  • Moreover, there is a significant wage gap associated with gender, even for the same occupations and even when controlling for individual characteristics, such as education
  • In many countries, the lack of basic necessities and rights inhibits women’s potential to join the formal labor market or become entrepreneurs.

The challenges of growth, job creation, and inclusion are closely tangled. While growth and stability are necessary to give women the opportunities they need, women’s participation in the labor market is also a part of the growth and stability equation. In rapidly aging economies, higher female labor force participation can boost growth by mitigating the impact of a shrinking workforce. Better opportunities for women can also contribute to broader economic development in developing economies through higher levels of school enrollment for girls.

Week 14: Women’s Rights aren’t Quite What They Should Be

Part A


Women’s rights around the world are important indicators for understanding global well-being and equality. Despite many successes in empowering women in recent decades, numerous problems remain. This includes continuing gender discrimination and lower pay, even when laws dictate such practices are illegal (Africare). As education has improved the livelihoods of many African women, both socially and economically, they still lack access to many opportunities. By increasing wages for women and participation in local businesses, some policies address the gaps that still exist.

“Despite the crucial investments women make in their families and the contributions they make to their communities, Sub-Saharan women constitute only 15% of the region’s landholders, and they face disproportionate challenges ranging from sexual exploitation to illiteracy and disease” –Africare

That is not to say there hasn’t been progress:

  • Poor women are gaining greater access to savings and credit mechanisms worldwide, due to microcredit.
  • There is a dwindling number of countries that do not allow women to vote including Bhutan, Lebanon, Brunei, and Saudi Arabia
  • Women are gaining more positions in parliament throughout Africa. In many cases African countries have more women in parliament than some western ones.
  • An almost universal ratification of the women’s rights treaty, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

(source: Global Issues)

Unfortunately, innovative policies must be implemented to create a more sustainable gender equality, including leadership training and microfinancing opportunities as these women strive for personal development. Vocational training is only the beginning, for it takes more than basic literacy to transform a community (Global Issues). Women must have access to business management training and supervisory roles.

Africare logo

Africare logo

In 2008, Africare began the Initiative for the Economic Empowerment of Women Entrepreneurs Project (IEEWEP) with funding by ExxonMobil. By providing training for better agricultural practices and new agro-processing centers, the IEEWEP increased women’s income and participation in local businesses in Southern Chad.

IIn the past three years more than 1,000 women have worked through a graduated business development project, which has diversified their income sources and increased their annual income by approximately 70%. To support women’s empowerment projects, go to www.africare.org

 Continuing issues:

  • Women work more than men, but are paid less.
  • In many places women are still not allowed to own property or inherit land
  • Social exclusion, “honor” killings, female genital mutilation, trafficking, restricted mobility and early marriage among others, deny the right to health to women and girls and increase illness and death throughout the life-course.
  • In some patriarchal societies, religion or tradition can be used as a barrier for equal rights

(source: Global Issues)


Part B

Women, Work, and the Economy highlights the ways that women can affect the economy in a positive way:

  • There’s evidence that when women are able to develop their full labor market
    potential, there can be significant macroeconomic gains.
  • There are better opportunities for women to earn and control income could contribute to broader economic development in developing economies
  • Having equal access to inputs would raise the productivity of female-owned companies.
  • The employment of women on an equal basis would allow companies to make better use of the available talent pool, with potential growth implications

Week 13: Girl Power

Kakenya Ntaiya made a deal with her father: She would undergo traditional female circumcision (a Maasai rite of passage) if he let her go to high school.  She had to make a deal to go to high school, a level of education mandatory here in the United States (or until a student is 18, in which you can drop out on your own).

The fact is women are not empowered to make the choice to continue with their education on their own.  Education enlightens people and pushes minds to the think differently, embrace change, and think critically.  By empowering young women through education, allows for social change in villages in Africa.  It allows upward mobility in the workforce. With educated women working and earning wages, women do not have to rely on a single wage being brought into the house and further changing the social-economic structure.

Another strategy of empowering young girls is raising the minimum age of marriage.  Denise Dunning of Let Girls Lead work to raise the national marriage age from 15 to 18.  In some places in Africa parents will sell the rights to marry their daughter, often at a very young age.  This takes social powers away from the women.  Raising the minimum age with empower young girls and make them more independent.  The strategies are implemented by the governments with the help from not-for-profits.

Camfed is a non-for-profit organization that supports girls to go to school.  They have been operating in Zambia since 2001, working in ten districts, twenty seven districts, and seven hundred schools.

I believe educating girls is crucial, especially since our region is so devastated by HIV/AIDS and many of the children are orphans. Educating girls is the only way. If you are not educated, that’s the end of you. – Camfed

Zambia is still ranked 13th out of 15 countries for literacy and numeracy by the Southern African Consortium for Measuring Education.  As good of a non-for-profit Camfed is, the results seem not to be improving since 2001.  Although it is very difficult task when Camfed is competing to keep girls in school against pregnancy, early marriage, and extreme poverty.

Holistic approaches to help curb the prevalence of sexually centered issues in Africa include:

  • Men as a priority in sexuality research
  • Adolescent health promotion
  • Developing sexual heath interventions

Boko Haram militants (BBC.com)

Nigeria has recently had issues with a militant Islamist group, Boko Haram. Muslims in the Sokoto caliphate refuse to send their children to government-run “Western schools”, a problem compounded by the ruling elite which does not see education as a priority.  The group has created havoc by:

  • Wave of bombings
  • Assassinations
  • Abductions

Included in the abductions was more than 200 school girls.  Some girl escaped but the remaining missing girls have converted to Islam and married off.

Week 14: Women and the Economy

Women have gained a lot of experience in the areas of environment, family, and community development. However, the lives of women are still very different from the lives of men. Even though studies, including a 2002 World Bank study, have proven that gender equality is helpful to the economy, there is still a wide gap between genders. Many women have little access to an education or any chance of having a career because of situations like child marriage or the high fertility rate. They also face health risks such as genital mutilation and exposure to disease. Women cultivate over 50 percent of all food that is grown in the world according to Inter Press Service, but many still go unpaid for their services.

Joyce Banda, the first female President of Malawi.

There have been strides to improve the gender equality in Africa. More women are becoming politicians. In 2012, Joyce Banda was elected the first female President of Malawi. As of 2013, there are more women registered to vote than men. In 1979, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. This is often referred to as an “international bill of rights” for women and defines what is actually discrimination against women and how to end that discrimination. Another stride the world has made towards gender equality is through the creation of the MDGs. The third MDG is gender quality and empowering women.

More needs to be done to ensure that both of these strides are being followed through. In my opinion, access to education is something that needs to be a top priority for women. Not only is it difficult for women to find access to schools, but it is even more difficult to actually complete their schooling. I think policies need to be made to ensure that everyone has access to schooling, even if it’s not every day of the week. Another huge issue women face are maternal issues. Not only is the fertility rate extremely high forcing women to focus on motherhood alone, but deaths because of pregnancy complications and childbirth are still an issue affecting more than half a million women a year. 99 percent of these deaths occur in third world countries. I believe that better health care and access to birth control and other forms of contraception needs to be made a large priority for the government.

Many women still lack basic necessities and rights, so often times getting a job and participating in the economy isn’t an option. Women participate in a lot of unskilled labor and their salaries are very unstable. They also aren’t allowed to have as large of plots of land as men. Women are also forced into unpaid jobs like child-rearing and doing chores, which women typically spend 2 to 4 times more on than men.

However, in “Women, Work and the Economy.” there are multiple benefits named for societies when women have realized full economic viability. These benefits are:

-When women are able to develop their full labor market potential, there can be significant macroeconomic gains.
-In rapidly aging economies, higher FLFP can boost growth by mitigating the impact of a shrinking workforce.
-Better opportunities for women to earn and control income could contribute to broader economic development in developing economies, for instance through higher levels of school enrollment for girls.
-Equal access to inputs would raise the productivity of female-owned companies.
-The employment of women on an equal basis would allow companies to make better use of the available talent pool, with potential growth implications.

(Week 14): Empowering Women

Gender Equality is an issue of large social importance across the globe. Depending on the country and region the issue of gender equality takes on slightly different in forms. In Africa poverty and gender inequality are interconnected, as women are much more likely to be poor and illiterate than men.  Women’s opportunities for growth, education, and development are often hindered by discriminatory traditions or laws in some Sub-Saharan African countries.  Everything from not being able to own property to not being able to attend school while menstruating takes away from potential opportunities for young women and increases the gender inequality gap.

To achieve gender equality initiatives and projects on education, entrepreneurship, and financial independence should have a focus on women. Empowering women benefits everyone.  Helping half the workforce have access to opportunities, and overcome barriers put in their place simply because of their gender, helps stimulate the livelihood and opportunity of the community that empowers them.

In terms of policy and women’s rights there has been some success:

  • the number of countries that do not grant women the right to vote is on the decline
  • Women are gaining more positions in parliament throughout Africa.  Many African countries have more women in parliament than some western ones (Rwanda’s government is run by a female majority).
  • Women living in poverty are gaining greater access to credit and saving mechanisms internationally because of microcredit.
  • There has been an almost universal ratification of the women’s rights treaty, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

women’s suffrage around the globe (source: imgur)

Despite some success in empowering women in the last decade or so, numerous problems still remain in terms of gender equality.  Even when there are law that say that gender discrimination and lower pay for women are illegal these things still happen (Africare).  Sub-Saharan women make up only 15% of the region’s landholders, despite the investment and work women put into their families and communities.  These women are also more likely to face obstacles concerning sexual exploitation, disease, and illiteracy.

To create a more sustainable gender equality across the world micro-financing opportunities, leadership training, and the encouragement of female entrepreneurship are necessary to help women grow, develop, and reach their potential. Training is just the first step, women must also be able to access supervisory roles and business management.

The Initiative for the Economic Empowerment of Women Entrepreneurs Project (IEEWP) was founded by Africare in 2008.  Funded by ExxonMobil this program provides training for better agricultural practices and agro-processing centers.  The IEEWEP was able to increase women’s participation in local businesses (and their salaries) in Southern Chad.


Africare logo (Africare)

Since 2011 more than 1,000 women have found work through a graduated business development project, which serves to diversify their income sources. These projects also helped increase their annual income by approximately 70% (Africare).

Despite some of these advancements there is still room to improve in terms of gender equality, here are some continuing concerns:

  • In many places women are not allowed to own property or inherit land
  • women work more than men, but are often paid less
  • Religion or tradition can be used as an additional obstacle for equal rights in some societies deeply roots in patriarchal ideals.
  • Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), trafficking, social exclusions, “honor” killings, early marriages, and restricted mobility deny women and girls their health, increase the chance of illness and death.

There are many ways that women can create positive economic change, Women, Work, and the Economy discusses a couple of these situations:

  • When women are able to develop their full labor market potential, there can potentially be significant macroeconomic gains
  • the employment of women on an equal basis would let companies make better use of the available talent pool, with potential growth implications.
  • Equal access to inputs would raise the productivity levels of female-owned companies
  • There are better opportunities for women to earn and control income, which could contribute to broader economic development in developing economies