Addressing violence against women and achieving the Millennium Development Goals
MDG 8: Develop a global partnership for development
Development makes little sense if half of the population is excluded from participating, contributing and reaping its benefits. Yet that is exactly what happens when violence – together with harmful gender norms and discriminatory legislation – prevents women from being full partners in development projects (37,38). Such violence usually takes the form of intimate-partner violence through which men control women’s work, income, social contacts and mobility. However, violence in the community, the workplace and in conflict situations, all play their part in denying women full access to education, health care, and social services. Development strategies should promote women's ability to participate as full social, economic and political partners, unrestricted by harmful gender norms and violence. The strategies must include interventions that range, for example, from quotas 9 ensuring that women have guaranteed access to certain types of jobs, education or governance positions, to gender-sensitive budgets that support equitable allocation of resources, to laws that do not discriminate against women and health and social services responsive to women’s needs (1,39).
Women’s organizations of various kinds (e.g. social, cultural, or service-oriented) have played important parts in many aspects of development, particularly those related to health, human rights and social justice. However, female leaders and groups representing women are relatively rare in the national politics of most countries, with the result that few laws and policies challenge prevailing gender-related attitudes and practices.
This must change – as must the structures that exist to exclude women and attention to gender equality. Increasing women’s participation must be accompanied by moves to address and reform the systematic reference to male norms as standards across many systems. Women, alone, should not be responsible for raising awareness about the harmful effects of violence against them and of gender inequality. Men also need to play a key role in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment and to recognize that they also stand to benefit from such actions. Partnerships with other key stakeholders are required in order for action to be concerted and effective. Women must have increased and guaranteed access to decision-making structures and to political participation. These structures must be transformed to allow women’s participation to have an impact and more priority must be given to ensuring that issues such as gender-related violence and harmful gender norms receive the attention and resources they deserve.
The same is true in the field of development. Although many international agencies, institutions and nongovernmental organizations have endorsed progressive gender policies, such policies are often not translated into gender-sensitive programming and budgets are rarely tied to activities aimed at changing the status of women.
Bodies with decision-making or executive responsibilities in the field of development should specifically include gender equality as a central goal for activities and involve representatives of women’s groups, and if necessary this should be a condition for external funding.
Just as the individual targets within this MDG will benefit from women’s safe and unrestricted participation, their achievement should help in preventing violence against women.
Opportunities to use and benefit from new information and communication technologies – without the threat of violence if a man or maledominated society disapproves – will not only offer new employment and social opportunities but will permit women to understand, discuss and ultimately act against the gender norms and institutional discrimination that perpetuate their inferior status in society. Policies and programmes aimed at increasing access to new technologies should be designed with provisions to ensure that women can safely access and benefit from the new technological developments.
9 Quotas have proven effective for women's political participation, but they have been less so in economic domains. Quotas that seek only to increase numbers of women and not to change the conditions and structures that allow free and full participation (i.e. chilly climates and norms that may promote women's representation when male family members have been exhausted) will have limited success - and may even increase women’s burden.