In the remaining 1,000 days to the 2015 deadline of the eight Millennium Development Goals ( MDGs ), women and girls still face a host of problems. Pervasive violence against females continues despite one of the targets to promote gender equality — recent reports include the rape and murder of a number of females in Jakarta and other cities. John Hendra, the UN women’s deputy executive director and co-chair of the UN MDG Task Force, talked to The Jakarta Post’s Desy Nurhayati and Rita A. Widiadana on the sidelines of the UN High Level Panel of Eminent Persons meeting in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Wednesday. The following are excerpts of the interview.
Question: How do you see the global situation on women before the MDGs were launched in 2000, and after the 2015 deadline?
Answer: There has been crucial progress, but there are still some disparities between urban and rural areas. People are curious about what the post-2015 development framework will be like. But now we need to focus on the next two and a half years to achieve the goals in 2015.
There have been serious consultations around the world, and people want the next framework to have a broader agenda [including] issues of inequality, between countries and within countries.
The UN Women’s view for post-2015 is to have a separate goal in gender equality. There has been much evidence that by investing in women and girls’ education and gender equality, it can help achieve broader goals in governance, peace and security.
[Also] unless you deal with discrimination — the structural problems on equality and lack of power, access and resources for women — we will never end extreme poverty, violence or have a sustainable environment.
[Another reason] is because we need a focal point to make sure that everyone is held accountable and have a proper policy on this issue, to mobilize more investment. Each country has not put enough money into gender equality. It’s chronically underfunded.
Many developing countries will unlikely meet the MDG target. What is the common problem?
The results of UN consultations have shown a number of important things. Countries where the goals really become part of the national dialogue, are integrated in national development and adjusted to the most pressing agenda will be the most successful. Political will, commitment and accountability will also make it stronger [for countries] to achieve the goals. It’s also important for communities to make sure that services are provided equitably, fairly and transparently.
There are also challenges of financing in poor countries, as well as challenges on how to translate the goal into a national policy. The future frameworks will be very important to help change policies because there are also a number of new issues [...] like ending violence against women — which is not included in the current MDGs.
How do you see commitments from advanced countries to support developing countries in achieving the goals?
Before the MDGs, many official development assistance ( ODA ) funds were not really focused and were still driven by donors, and the MDGs have really helped mobilized ODA and much stronger financial support.
The challenge [of the new agenda] is that the ODA will [still] be part of it, but most resources will come from domestic resource mobilization [of respective countries]. Also, what people want are changes in policies — better social protection, more women in the labor force and a narrowing of the wage gap [between men and women].
Policy-making in many countries is still dominated by male politicians. How do you see this?
One important element in the new framework is to have a stand-alone goal on gender equality, [focusing] on three things: choice, safety and voice.
Women should have more choices to help them develop their capabilities. In terms of safety, the goal is to ensure countries are much safer for women and focus on ending violence against women.
In terms of voice, it is not only about giving women more voice participation in public life but also in the household and in the private sector. Evidence shows that where there are more women in parliament, you have more focus on legislation that really affects people and families, like better social protection, better healthcare, education, job opportunities.
Besides, it is important to have more women in other fields, like in the police force to deal with sensitive incidences [like] cases of violence against women. If you have more women judges in the judicial system, cases of rape and violence against women will go to prosecution and result in conviction much more often.
Do you see any significant progress in Asian countries in achieving the MDGs?
There have been many [...] but what’s important for now and the future is to look beyond what is happening in a country overall. You need to look more in different regions, some of which are not doing as well as others.
It is really important to do more analysis on which countries, and which part of the countries are doing well and which ones are not, so we know where to put more investment, focus on policies and development planning
Indonesia, for instance, has achieved much progress, including in educating girls, reducing the maternal mortality rate and increasing women’s voices. But this is a very huge country. Progress has not been achieved at the same pace in one area as in another.
What we need to do is make sure we have the best indicator, and look at the inequality, and how can policies be better developed to make sure that those areas that are falling behind are able to catch up.
What is your message after this meeting in Bali?
We want to make sure that the next agenda addresses inequality, and [have] a more dynamic agenda on sustainable development and governance.
We are happy that this time we get the momentum to push forward gender inequality and violence against women. We have a real opportunity to focus on deeper problems and find the way toward a development agenda that can really bring some positive changes, at a time that is difficult for so many people around the world.