Alice Gomni Alher, radio announcer and producer in Niger.
Photo: George Osodi/PANOS
When gender equality increases, poverty is reduced. This is why gender equality is a prioritised issue in Swedish development cooperation, permeating all Sida’s interventions.
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. In Sweden gender equality within development cooperation is a part of Sweden's Policy for Global Development and has been a thematic priority since 2007.
Women are a priority target group in all cooperation strategies and in the newly developed results strategies.
Gender equality reduces poverty
Gender equality in Swedish development cooperation means:
- That we follow international agreements on women’s and girls’ rights,
- that the development cooperation includes men, women, girls and boys, and
- that poverty is reduced.
Poverty has different dimensions for women and men. Because women are discriminated in relation to men, poverty is more noticeable for women. The challenge is that it is all about power - and lack of power in all areas of life.
The right of women and girls to have control and power over their own bodies is a controversial issue, which involves for example access to contraceptives, the right and access to safe abortion, access to knowledge about the body and what rights you have. An example of the combination of inequality and poverty is the fact that 800 women die every day in ailments related to pregnancy. Another one is the fact that 60 million girls are forced into marriage before the age of 18.
Access for women to economic and political power remains a challenge as women still own a tiny part of the world's financial assets, and many women do not even have their own bank account.
The widespread violence against women and girls is an extreme manifestation of gender inequality: 7 out of 10 women have at some point during life been subjected to violence and 603 million women and girls live in countries where gender-based violence is not prohibited.
Positive development despite challenges
Despite the great challenges, there is a positive development. Education is an important condition for women’s and girls’ empowerment. Today 97 girls per 100 boys enrol in primary school, compared to 91 per 100 ten years ago. The challenge of preventing girls from leaving school too early is on the international agenda.
Men's involvement in the work for gender equality is increasing and has become an international priority. The proportion of women in the world's parliaments has increased from 14 to 21 per cent since 2000. The number of laws that discriminate and restrict economic and civil rights of women has been reduced by half since 1960, according to the World Bank.
Complex issues that could not even be discussed 10-20 years ago are now on the agenda of international agreements and recommendations, such as the issue of violence against women and girls’ and women's participation and influence in peace processes. Important organisations such as the World Bank and the UN state that gender equality is a condition for development - something unthinkable just a few years ago.
Not only women's rights
Stereotypical gender norms lock both men and women into limited roles and patriarchal structures which are maintained by both men and women, thus limiting the possibilities of taking control of one's own life. 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.
The equality promotion work must be targeted towards all groups and aimed at changing institutions and social structures. In order to succeed, political intention and leadership are needed.
Sida uses a model for gender mainstreaming with gender analysis followed by three approaches: targeted interventions, integrated actions and dialogue.
Since 2007, Sida's support to interventions with gender equality as its main objective has been doubled, and now constitutes about 17 per cent of the portfolio, while about 70 per cent are actions in which consideration is given to gender equality.
Sida's dialogue work in terms of gender equality is strategic and consistent. It is incontrovertible to work with complicated issues such as sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender-based violence.