Alice Gomni Alher, radio announcer and producer in Niger.
Photo: © UNESCO C. Arnaldo

Alice Gomni Alher, radio announcer and producer in Niger. Photo: © UNESCO C. Arnaldo

Democracy, human rights and equality

Our work towards gender equality

Published: Friday, March 18, 2011

Changed: Monday, March 21, 2011

Gender equality is a priority issue in development cooperation and objectives for gender equality are included in the cooperation strategies. The reason for this is when gender equality increases, poverty is reduced.

Gender equality is central to Sweden's development cooperation. Gender equality is achieved when women and men, girls and boys, have equal rights, conditions, opportunities and power to shape their own lives and affect society. It is about fair distribution of power, influence and resources in everyday life and society.

An equal society utilises every individual's resources and competence. Since the UN's Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, when an operational plan was drafted, there has been an international commitment to improve conditions for women, eliminate discrimination and remove barriers to equality.  In Sweden gender equality within development cooperation is a part of Sweden's Policy for Global Development and one of the government's three thematic priorities; democracy and human rights, climate and the environment and gender equality.

The work is guided by a policy on gender equality and women's rights and roles in the Swedish international development cooperation with the overall objectives:

  • gender equality
  • increased influence of women
  • increased respect for women's rights in developing countries

Gender equality is included in the formulated objectives of Sweden's cooperation strategies. In 2010 initiatives having gender equality as its primary purpose were 11 per cent.

Gender equality reduces poverty

Gender equality is a human rights issue and as such, both an objective in itself as a prerequisite for long-term democratic development with fair and sustainable global development. Furthermore, studies show there are strong links between increased gender equality and reduced poverty, due to the fact poverty tends to reinforce gender discrimination and unequal relations between the sexes.

Poverty has many dimensions. These can be lack of income, material resources, security, education, opportunities, power and influence. Most of those living in the deepest poverty in the world are women and girls.  Women comprise, according to estimates from UN Women, approx. 70 per cent of the world’s poor. Despite women performing 66 per cent of all work, their income only makes up 10 per cent, and women only own 1 per cent of all property.

Studies show that women invest up to 90 per cent of their income in their families and the welfare of society, while for men it lies between 30 and 40 per cent. The largest investments made by women are towards the health and education of their children, further creating poverty-reducing effects. It is therefore vital to increase women’s opportunities to influence and strengthen their financial participation. 

Not only women's rights

Stereotypical gender norms lock both men and women into limited roles and patriarchal structures maintained by both men and women. Men are also negatively affected by stereotypical ideas on masculinity which may lead to putting themselves and others at risk. People who do not fit into standard norms, such as homo-, bi- and transsexuals or people with a functional disability are especially vulnerable to discrimination.

Women and men are not homogeneous groups and their identities, prerequisites, needs and opportunities are also affected by factors such as age, class, religion and ethnic belonging. To oppose stereotypes and norms can, in the long-term, not only lead to more efficient development and combat poverty, but also to more individual freedom and increased diversity.

Unequal distribution of power, opportunities and resources between men and women, as well as norms for the behaviour, roles and responsibilities of men and women, limit the possibilities of steering one's own life and utilising the opportunities for providing for one's own livelihood and independence.  The development cooperation therefore has a significant part to play in changing unequal relations between the genders.  In order to succeed, political intention and leadership and sufficient resources are needed.  

The equality promotion work must be targeted towards all groups and aimed at changing institutions and social structures.  Read more about our work on:



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