MDG 3: promote gender equality and empower women

Students taking part in a condom demonstration during an HIV/AIDS education session, Phnom Penh

The MDG 3 indicators track key elements of women's social, economic and political participation and guide the building of gender-equitable societies.

All the MDGs influence health, and health influences all the MDGs. The MDGs are inter-dependent. For example, better health enables children to learn and adults to earn. Gender equality is essential to the achievement of better health.

Target 3.A. Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education by no later than 2015

Girls' education is critically linked to self-determination, improved health, social and economic status as well as positive health outcomes for the mother and the child. Yet, girls still account for 55% of the out-of-school population.

Maternal deaths and pregnancy-related conditions cannot be eliminated without the empowerment of women. Maternal mortality is the number one cause of death for adolescents 15–19 years old and in many countries, sexual and reproductive health services tend to focus exclusively on married women and ignore the needs of adolescents and unmarried women.

Empowerment of women, including ensuring access to health information and control of resources such as money, is important for achieving gender equality and health equity. However, the ratio of female-to-male earned income is well below parity in all countries for which data are available.

Up to one in three women worldwide will experience violence at some point in her life, which can lead to unwanted pregnancy and abortion, among other things.

WHO key working areas

In partnership with Member States and others, WHO:

  • furthers the empowerment of women, especially as it contributes to health;
  • supports the prevention of and response to gender-based violence;
  • promotes women's participation and leadership, especially in the health sector;
  • defines ways in which men can be engaged to promote gender equality and to contribute more to their own health and that of their families and communities;
  • builds the capacity of WHO and its Member States to identify gender equality-related gaps; and
  • provides support for gender-responsive policies and programmes.

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Corporate resources