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Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women


 Goal 3
  • Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015


Gender equality rate:
Ratio of girls to boys in primary and secondary education, % (2004-08, most recent year available)
Gender Map
Click to enlarge image: GIF (64 KB) | PDF (2.3 MB)


Higher enrollments are shrinking the gender gap in education. Gender equality and female empowerment are important not only as the third MDG; they also improve progress on the other MDG targets related to poverty, hunger, disease, and education. As more girls complete primary school than ever, many countries have reached gender parity in primary education.

All told, almost two-thirds of developing countries reached gender parity at the primary school level by 2005, and the target of achieving gender parity in primary and secondary education can be met by 2015. Sub-Saharan Africa is making good progress but is far behind the global target.


Gender parity is weak beyond primary education.MDG 3 also calls for gender parity in tertiary education, gender equality in employment, and greater political representation of women. Progress toward these targets has been slower and less even. The gender targets face added risk from the current crisis because evidence from past crises suggests that women in general are more vulnerable.


MDG 3 Outlook

 The impact on gender equality (ratio of girls to boys) in education is muted because this indicator is influenced by forces that change only slowly. However, the impact of slower growth on the MDGs would increase as the time horizon is extended further into the future. For example, fewer girls being educated now will eventually mean that women of child-bearing age will have less education, and in turn are less likely to send their girls to school.

Figure 4.2 MDG 3
Click to enlarge image: GIF (21 KB) | PDF (89 KB)

Figure 1.15 Fragile states
Click to enlarge image: GIF (15 KB) | PDF (133 KB)

Footnote: GMR2010 analyzes risks to the MDGs under three alternate scenarios for GDP growth in developing countries after the financial crisis:

  • The post-crisis trend assumes a relatively rapid economic recovery in 2010, with strong growth continuing into the future. This is the report’s base case forecast.
  • The pre-crisis (high growth) trend gives the forecast path for the MDGs if developing countries had continued their impressive growth performance during 2000–07, the period just before the global economic crisis. The impact of the crisis on the MDGs can thus be measured by comparing the post-crisis trend scenario with this one.
  • The low growth scenario assumes that things that got worse because of the crisis will remain so in the medium run. There is little or no growth for about 5 years, and growth recovers slowly thereafter.


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