In September 2000, the 189 United Nations member states of the time, and 23 international organizations, set a lofty goal: to work together in an effort to relieve poverty, hunger, disease, and lack of access to basic education and clean drinking water by 2015. The eight areas targeted for improvement, were collectively named the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs.
Many of the goals set 15 years ago have been attained, or nearly so. In this regard, a major achievement of the MDGs has been reducing the number of those living in extreme poverty by 50 percent. And yet, progress has been uneven, particularly for women and girls.
Today, a wide employment gender gap persists. Despite significant advances, especially in primary education, girls are more likely to be out of school than boys at all levels, with the gender gap in school attendance widening at lower secondary education. And at the slow pace women are attaining seats in elected government bodies, it will take nearly 40 years to reach parity in parliaments.
Of the specific MDGs, progress has been slowest on issues of women’s and girls’ health and well-being, said Ambassador Richard Erdman, Acting U.S. Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council. “Among all of the MDGs, progress on reducing maternal mortality and providing universal access to reproductive health lags furthest behind.”
The United States firmly believes that the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which will be adopted in September, must place the needs of women and girls at the center of sustainable development. “To fulfill our new 2030 development agenda, we must recognize the vital role that sexual and reproductive health care services play in ensuring healthy lives and eradicating poverty,” said Ambassador Erdman.
“Enlightened policies on sexual and reproductive health and effective programs are a matter of life and death for millions of women and girls around the world. It’s clear we need strong global leadership to continue making progress.”