Despite significant progress in the campaign for women's empowerment, gaps remain in many key areas, a UN gender equality official said Wednesday, appealing for a renewed effort from all partners to better integrate gender issues into the overall quest for sustainable development.
"It is ... essential to harness the synergy between gender equality, women's rights and empowerment with sustainable development in its three dimensions -- economic, social, and environmental," Lakshmi Puri, deputy executive director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said as she opened a high-level forum at the UN Headquarters in New York.
The two-day event, organized ahead of next year's 58th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, is looking at challenges and achievements in meeting the targets for women's and girls' progress in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of eight anti-poverty targets, including gender equality and the empowerment of women.
"We know that the MDGs have played a critical role in galvanizing attention to gender equality and women's empowerment -- not least thanks to the existence of a stand-alone goal on the promotion of gender equality and women's empowerment -- but also to poverty eradication, education, health, water and sanitation, and the environment," she said.
While noting that there has been "significant progress" in boosting access to primary education and to water, she said more needed to be done in areas such as maternal mortality, social norms, access to decent work and participation in decision-making, with stark gaps existing within and between countries.
Therefore, the systematic mainstreaming and monitoring of gender equality issues across development goals is needed, she said, adding that women's empowerment is a precondition for achieving many goals and vice-versa.
In regard to the development framework beyond 2015, she called for a new, stand-alone goal with three core concerns: ending violence against women, equal access to resources and opportunities, and equal participation in all sectors of society.