Promoting the Gender Dimension in Human Development

Editorial by Montse Rafel – Director of Dianova International

Giving women and girls the same opportunities as men is not only a moral duty but also a necessity. It is a moral duty, because no one can accept that half of humanity be still relegated to menial tasks under the control of males, as women are in too many countries. It is necessary because only through women's and girls' access to quality education can countries and communities achieve their full development.

Women's and girls' education is a remarkable instrument for growth and modernization in developing countries. On the one hand because education contributes to individual empowerment by giving women the freedom to make decisions that will affect them and allowing them to access decent, adequately remunerated jobs.  On the other hand because the education of women and girls has a direct impact on community as a whole. An educated woman is more likely to see a doctor when her child gets sick; she is keener to participate in vaccination campaigns and more likely to adopt practices that will help keep their children healthy.  A study conducted by UNESCO stresses that education of women and girls has saved the lives of over two million children between 1990 and 2009.

Issues are different in industrialized countries but the challenges are equally important. Of course, almost all school-aged children attend primary or secondary education, but if going to school is one thing, leaning something at school is quite another issue. According to the findings of a study in OECD member countries, a minority of students (up to 20% in some countries) leave school without having acquired the skills needed to find a job, such as basic literacy and numeracy. In addition, should they complete their schooling years, a number of abilities remain foreign to them, including conflict-management, teamwork and respect for diversity.

As regards gender equality, huge progress has been made in recent decades. However, although women in these countries have equal access to basic services such as health and education, they continue to be discriminated against in terms of access to economic and political decision-making positions, equal pay for equal work and in terms of their fundamental rights in all aspects of their lives (including at home and in the workplace). Moreover, this persistent discrimination is one of the structural causes of violence against women.

In Dianova, we have long been committed to foster a balanced, fair and sustainable human development. That is why we are dedicated to promote, advocate and nurture, within our network and among partner and international organizations, gender equality at all levels, and more particularly for an equal access to quality education. 

Human development is not an end in itself. It is a process which entails freeing and enlarging people's choices within a society. Its essence is to reinforce people's capacities and options to determine their own present and future. Integrating and promoting the gender dimension in human development is therefore a precondition for its success.