- Riding a taxi home the other day I was somewhat in awe of the woman driving it. She appeared to be the owner of the vehicle, in her mid-forties, dignified and commanding respect simply by the look of pride on her face.
I am also proud when I see examples like this of "sisters doing' it for themselves", to borrow from the famous Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin song.
However, when, as part of my job, I go through the recent Global Millennium Development Goals Report, I cannot help but feel dismayed. These South African "sisters" are doing it for themselves but many are still missing out on job security, decent employment and education.
Worse, these are not yet prominent issues in this year’s local government elections, where the main debate seems to be around infrastructure, not job creation or education.
Two MDG goals in particular - Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education and Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women - are especially relevant.
Given that gender equality and the empowerment of women are at the core of the MDGs, along with the fact they are paramount if we are to overcome poverty, hunger and disease by 2015, these are definitely pressing issues for all our country's elected and aspiring politicians.
When it comes to schooling, disparities in tertiary education do not end at enrolment but are also seen in the area of study. Women are overrepresented in the humanities and social sciences and underrepresented in science and technology. This illustrates a reinforcement of socio-biological stereotypes which ensure women do not stray too far from their feminine household role, where they are supposed to be nurturing and non-competitive.
We see this in the labour sector as well. One example is the 2009 Gender Links Glass Ceilings: Women and Men in Southern African Media study, which found that stereotyping is common in media houses across the region. Women journalists are given softer reporting beats such as lifestyle, gender and health while male journalists work hard investigative beats such as politics or economics.
Employment wise, in sub-Saharan Africa women occupy just one in three paid jobs outside agriculture, and it comes as no surprise that women are typically paid less than their male counterparts and have less secure employment.
Despite this, there is an increase in women entering the labour force throughout their child-bearing years, finding ways to juggle the pressures of their unpaid family work and paid employment. Time will only tell what impact this has on the regional economy and male-female relations.
Women perform more unpaid work than men, leaving them "time poor" with less sleep and leisure time. The burden of combining the "traditional" work of a mother and wife and the paid work of the labour market inevitably impacts the level of participation possible for women, as well as their access to decent work.
The 2009 research report Global Trends in Women's Access to "Decent Work" notes that job security and occupational safety and pay do not automatically improve for women as employment increases. In fact, it may get worse as women are more vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers.
Limited men's participation in unpaid care work and child care is another hindrance to women's access to good employment opportunities. In addition, high levels of gender-based violence persist in South Africa, which is both a cause and consequence of poverty.
As we approach Election Day it is clear much more needs to be said and done if we are to achieve the MDG goals and facilitate women's access to education, training and full employment and decent work by 2015. The question now is which party, if any, will take up these important issues? Sisters need some help so they can do it for themselves.
- Doreen Gaura is a gender activist and writer based in Cape Town. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary series on South Africa's local government elections. It is published here with the permission of Gender Links.
- The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says Zambia has made steady progress in attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
UNDP associate administrator, Rebecca Grynspan, whose visit to Zambia is her first to the Africa region in her current position, says the country has done well in terms of working towards meeting the MDGs by the year 2015.
Grynspan further says that the Zambian economy is growing at a fast rate, adding that the UN will continue supporting the country's development agenda as well as the various efforts aimed at meeting the MDGs.
To read the article titled, “UN envoy praises MDGs strides,” click here.Source:All Africa
- The Zimbabwean Government says all United Nations country team agencies should direct financial assistance to government through the fiscus rather than the current scenario where various disbursements modalities are being used.
Chief secretary to Cabinet and President Robert Mugabe, Misheck Sibanda, points out that Zimbabwe is no longer a classic humanitarian case, hence more financial and technical assistance should now be channelled towards developmental programmes.
Speaking during the signing ceremony of the Zimbabwe United Nations Development Assistance Framework for the period between 2012 and 2015 in Harare, Sibanda assured the UN agencies that the development assistance availed to the country would be managed with greater accountability and transparency.
To read the article titled, “NGOs told to direct funds through fiscus,” click here.Source:All Africa
- Planning Minister, Trevor Manuel, says South Africa has failed to deliver quality services to the poor, despite adequate funding.
Manuel points out that, “We must accept that despite the adequate allocation of funding, we fail to deliver quality services, especially to the poor."
Manuel says legislators needed to recognise that the quality of democracy should be measured in a country's success in uprooting poverty, reducing inequality and broadening opportunities.
He was addressing members of the European Union and South African legislative sector at the 2010 International Consultative Seminar, which focused on the role of legislatures in achieving the United Nation's millennium development goals in Cape Town.
To read the article titled, “Manuel admits state fails on services,” click here.Source:Fin24
- Zambia's founding president, Kenneth Kaunda, says most African countries will not be able to meet their Millennium Development Goals (MDG) targets, particularly poverty eradication and the fight against HIV/AIDS because of a lack of education.
Speaking at the launch of the literary competition at Orkney, North West, Kaunda, pointed out that, "If we are going to be moving at this pace, we will not meet those challenges. We must improve on the speed that we are moving now to bring about the necessary qualities and quantities of education."
The competition is the brainchild of the Dr. Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality and it is aimed encouraging residents to start using libraries and read books as a tool of empowerment.
To read the article titled, “Kaunda says African countries unlikely to meet MDGs,” click here.
- Debate on the MDGs has recently intensified in both the public and policy sectors. With less than five years to go until its deadline of 2015, and the majority of the Goals seemingly out of reach, many are questioning the design and implementation of the MDGs, as well as the commitment from the international community. A recent summit in New York, attended by the world’s leaders, seems to have done little to provide the direction and clarity so clearly needed at this crucial juncture.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, in conjunction with the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Information Centre in Pretoria, is pleased to invite you to its Humanitarian Diplomacy Dialogue panel discussion on the MDGs beyond 2015.
- Prof. Ogude, Wits University;
- Mr. Pooven Moodley, Oxfam Regional Advisor for Southern Africa;
- Dr. Osten Chulu, UNDP;
- Ina Mentz, Deputy Director, Strategic Planning and Policy Monitoring, Department of Social Development, South African govt.
Time: 10:30 am – 1 pm
RSVP: Nooshin, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org by 29 November 2010Event start date:02/12/2010Event venue:IFRC offices (44 Wierda Road West, Wierda Valley, Sandton)
- The United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, says strong political support is needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Addressing the G20 summit in South Korea, Ban said that despite widespread skepticism, he believes the goals are still achievable before the 2015 deadline.
“...I believe that with strong political leadership and good policies targeted towards the right people, right areas and smart investment and adequate financial resources, I am sure that this is achievable," he explained.
To read the article titled, “Strong political support needed to achieve MDG's,” click here.
- The United Nations Foundation board of directors is holding a Board meeting in Ghana and will meet with government and NGO leaders to learn and share strategies for advancing progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The meeting comes at the culmination of a year-long effort by the UN Foundation to raise awareness about the need for innovative partnerships between governments, civil society, and the private sector with the UN to address global challenges.
The meeting in Ghana builds on the positive momentum generated during the recent high-level UN Summit in New York that showcased how the UN is achieving progress in Africa and must be accelerated around the world.
To read the article titled, “UN Foundation to Observe Progress Made on MDGs,” click here.
- Minister in the Presidency, Trevor Manuel, criticises developed countries for failing to act on the big commitments they have been making, to help developing countries.
Manuel, who is also accusing developed nations of ignoring these commitments, adds that, “This has led to a breakdown of trust and a high degree of cynicism about rich countries’ efforts to help tackle issues like poverty.”
He further states that the challenge in removing global economic imbalances and inequality is in relation to ethics of governance.
To read the article titled, “Developed countries fail on own commitments: Manuel,” click here.
Towards Universal Primary Education: Africa’s Progress in meeting the 2nd Millennium Development GoalThe Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were formulated at the United Nations (UN) Leaders Summit in 2000.(2) The MDGs are eight internationally recognised targets that aim to reduce poverty, hunger, maternal and child deaths, disease, inadequate shelter, gender inequality and environmental degradation by 2015.(3)
Since their inception, the MDGs have occupied the attention of numerous agencies like the UN, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and many bilateral organisations, all of which support the notion of having standardised parameters of development, with the end goal of improving the quality of political, social and economic spheres across the globe. To this end, Africa has tailored many governmental, regional and continental policies aimed at attaining the MDGs.
According to a report launched by the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), entitled ‘Assessing Progress in Africa Toward the Millennium Development Goals’, Africa has made steady progress on the MDGs.(4) The report gives evidence of this, reporting that as of 2009, Rwanda was ranked first in the world, with over 50 percent women’s representation in the national Parliament. In addition, Angola, Burundi, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda have more than a quarter women representatives in Parliament. Also, Mali, Senegal and Togo are on track on the HIV and AIDS target, while in 2008, Botswana, Comoros, Mauritius, Namibia and South Africa reached over 90 percent coverage for access to safe drinking water.(5)
In the words of Helen Clark, the administrator of UNDP, the evidence speaks for itself, “when the right policies are in place, scores can be lifted out of poverty rapidly, which means quite simply better lives for millions of Africans”.(6)
Few global goals have been as consistently and deeply supported as the notion that every child in every country should have the chance to complete at least a primary education.(7) A completed primary education is a basic human right and is necessary for enjoying many other rights. It is transformative and empowering, and a means for accessing broad economic, social, political and cultural benefits.(8) As such, African governments have been especially dedicated to meeting MDG number 2, whose target is to ensure that by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.(9)
It is the aim of this paper to assess the progress that Africa has made at attaining this target. The paper will first outline the importance of this particular MDG, then give an overview of Africa’s progress with regards to this goal and end by exploring the obstacles that would potentially impede Africa’s chance of reaching this goal by 2015. It will become apparent that contrary to the rhetoric that ‘‘Africa. . .is the only continent not on track to meet any of the goals of the Millennium Declaration by 2015”,(10) the continent has made significant strides in ensuring that all children will have access to primary education within the required timeframe.
The case for education
As the popular saying goes, ‘knowledge is power’ and this is especially true in Africa. As a continent that is composed entirely of developing states, it is imperative that Africa makes a concerted effort at empowering its people. Education is one of the most significant avenues through which this aspiration can be realised. Studies have shown that more equitable distribution of education is correlated with lower poverty and inequality and faster economic growth. Education, and particularly primary education is a powerful driver of progress toward the other MDGs.
Greater education for girls has strong positive impacts on the health of infants and children, immunisation rates, family nutrition, and the next generation’s schooling attainment. New data from Africa shows that education for girls and boys may be the single most effective preventive weapon against HIV and AIDS. Primary education also contributes to better natural resource management, including conservation of the tropical rain forest.(11)
Investment in education has many long-term advantages. Combined with sound macroeconomic policies, education is fundamental for the construction of globally competitive economies and democratic societies. Education is key to creating, applying, and spreading new ideas and technologies that in turn are critical for sustained growth; where it augments cognitive and other skills, which in turn increases labour productivity. The expansion of educational opportunity is a “win-win” strategy that in most societies is far easier to implement than the redistribution of other assets such as land or capital.(12)
Ultimately, education builds on what Amartya Sen calls ‘human capabilities’ - the essential and individual power to reflect, make choices, seek a voice in society, and enjoy a better life.(13) In short, education is one of the most powerful instruments known for reducing poverty and inequality and for laying the basis for sustained economic growth, sound governance, and effective institutions.(14)
This is not to say that education is the ‘holy grail’ of poverty alleviation and development. However, the outcomes of investing in education are multiple-fold. While giving food aid only alleviates hunger, investing in education has a ripple effect; influencing numerous spheres of development, and in effect furthering the progress in attaining all the MDG targets. To further support this claim, findings from the Education for All Global Monitoring Report show that:
• 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty if all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills - that is equivalent to a 12 percent drop in the number of people living on less than US$1.25 a day (MDG 1-Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger);
- In Kenya, if women farmers are given the same education opportunities as their male peers, their yields for maize, beans and cowpeas increase by up to 22 percent (MDG 3-Promote gender equality and empower women);
- A child born to a mother who can read is 50 percent more likely to survive past the age of five, and in sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 1.8 million children’s lives could have been saved in 2008 if their mothers had at least secondary education (MDG 4-Reduce child mortality);
- In Burkina Faso, mothers with secondary education are twice as likely to give birth more safely in health facilities as those with no education (MDG 5-Improve maternal health); and
- In Malawi, the share of women who know that HIV transmission risks can be reduced by taking drugs during pregnancy is only 27 percent for women without any education, but rises to 59 percent for women with secondary education (MDG 6-Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases).(15)
The progress Africa has made has been gradual, but significant nonetheless. The continent has made tremendous strides in achieving universal education with 76 percent net enrolment in primary education in 2008, up from 58 percent in 1999. There were close to 91 girls per 100 boys in schools in 2008, up from 85 in 1999, and this is a tremendous achievement in a continent whose societies are stratified along gender lines.
There are two main indicators used to measure progress in education, the first is net enrolment in primary education. African countries have continued to show overall progress in net enrolment in primary education. Of the 27 countries with data for 1991 and 2007, seven countries: Ethiopia, Guinea, Malawi, Mali, Madagascar, Mauritania, and Morocco, scored a significant improvement of 30 to 50 percentage points. Burkina Faso, Burundi, Djibouti, The Gambia, Ghana, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Swaziland, and Togo also succeeded in improving primary net enrolment by some 10 to 30 percentage points during this period. Increasing primary education expenditure is critical for raising the primary enrolment rate. It has been shown that countries that allocate at least 50 percent of their education budget to primary education have the fastest rate of progress in education.
The second marker is the primary completion rate. This is a measure of how many students remain in school till the end of their primary school career.(17) This measure is imperative, as it is a fuller indication of how many children have received primary education and are eligible to continue to secondary school. While MDG 2 is specific to primary education, its proposal does have long-term education goals that aim at increasing the number of students enrolled at secondary and tertiary institutions on the continent. Moreover, this marker is helpful when lobbying for the scaling-up of investments - both public and private. The allocation of more funds to education is more clearly justified when the children enrolled at school stay on to complete their studies.(18)
The first of Africa’s challenges is with regards to retention. While it is vital to get children into school, to receive the full benefits of this education, children must remain in school. In half the countries in sub-Saharan Africa with data available, more than 30 percent of primary school students drop out before reaching the final grade.(19)
Current statistics show that about 38 million children drop out of school each year in Africa alone.(20) The inability to provide universal primary education and to subsequently keep those students in school has had adverse effects on youth and adult literacy rates across the world. According to figures for 2000-2007, approximately 125 million youth and around 760 million adults are illiterate. One-third of youth illiterates and one-fifth of adult illiterates are in sub-Saharan Africa, with two-thirds of these being African women.(21)
The second challenge is that of the quality of education. According to the Deprivation and Marginalisation in Education (DME) data, while the vast majority of adults in rich countries will have accumulated 10 to 15 years of education, nearly one out of three in the 22 countries covered by the DME have fewer than four years of education. In eleven of these countries, the figure rises to 50 percent. In 26 countries, 20 percent or more of those aged 17 to 22 have fewer than two years of schooling. Marginalised individuals and groups do not just accumulate fewer years of education, but often receive a poor-quality education that results in low levels of learning achievement.(22)
This challenge is directly influenced by the third challenge - lack of financing and poverty. Given that nearly 1.4 billion people live on less than US$1.25 a day, household poverty is one of the strongest and most persistent factors contributing to educational marginalisation and, therefore, a formidable barrier to reach the MDG 2. Furthermore, group-based identities such as ethnicity, race, language and culture are also among the deepest fault lines in education, and are often reflected in human geography.
People living in slums, remote rural areas or conflict-affected zones are typically among the poorest and most vulnerable in any society, and are underserved in education. The marginalisation of specific groups in educational systems is underpinned by the lack of finances. When the resources to provide primary education to the whole nation are limited, political and social prejudices skew the distribution of quality education. This is to the detriment of less privileged minorities, women and disabled individuals.
Indeed, Africa has made great strides in ensuring that MDG 2 is reached. Making sure that all children have access to primary education by 2015 has multiple advantages. Not only does it enrich the lives of the individuals concerned, it empowers people in the universal fight against poverty. While the progress to attaining the MDGs has been slow, evidence shows that Africa is gradually climbing the ladder of development.
The Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Abdoulie Janneh, has commented that, “There are strong indications that the MDGs are achievable, provided African countries and their development partners can redouble their efforts to achieve the goals.”(23) This is further asserted by Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank Group, “given the encouraging achievements made, international support for the MDGs in Africa remains high but it must be scaled up if we are to achieve wide-ranging success.”(24)
These calls for increased efforts must be taken up by African Governments. In order to combat the above-mentioned challenges, Africa must implement more strategic policies at the national, regional and continental levels. The most important determinant in the acceleration of achieving universal primary education is political will. Governments must be mobilised to prioritise education above other political issues. Without governmental support, effective policies will not be implemented.
Good governance is also imperative, as greater accountability, participation and transparency can improve the efficiency with which available resources, financial and otherwise, are allocated and used. Such efforts, together with adequate aid, will accelerate Africa’s quest in attaining the MDGs.
While 2015 is not as far as was envisioned when the MDGs were proposed, hope cannot be lost now. Even if Africa does not meet 100 percent completion of all the MDGs, no sober mind would discount the development it has achieved in such a short amount of time.
(1) Contact Shingirai Maparura through Consultancy Africa Intelligence's Africa Watch Unit ( email@example.com ).
(2) United Nations website, http://www.un.org.
(3) Emmanuela Citterio, ‘Africa: Steady Progress on the MDGs’, Afronline, 21 September 2010, http://www.afronline.org.
(4) ‘Assessing Progress in Africa Toward the Millennium Development Goals’, African Union, 21 September 2010
(7) Bruns. B. Mingat. A & Rakotomalala. R. Achieving Universal Primary Education by 2015: A Chance for Every Child. World Bank Report, 2003.
(8) United Nations Development Group, Thematic Paper on MDG2: Achieve Universal Primary Education, 2010, http://www.undg.org.
(10) Easterly W, How the Millennium Development Goals are Unfair to Africa. World Development. 37(1). Pp. 26-35, 2009.
(11) World Bank website, http://www.worldbank.org.
(13) Alexander J, Republican Freedom and Amartya Sen’s Theory of Capabilities. Human Development and Capability Association conference Ideas Changing History, 17 – 20 September 2007, New School, New York.
(15) ‘World leaders and experts meet to raise the profile of education on the development agenda’, UNICEF, 21 September 2010, http://www.unicef.org.
(16) ‘New UNICEF study shows MDGs for children can be reached faster with focus on most disadvantaged’, UNICEF, 7 September 2010, http://www.unicef.org.
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