The purpose of goal 3 is to raise the socioeconomic status of women in developing countries through ensuring that females have equal access to education.

  • This goal aims to empower women through ensuring their involvement in decision-making processes that affect themselves, their families, their communities and their countries.


Goal 3 is important as in developing countries females are generally less likely than males to have access to education.

  • Not only does education have the ability to empower women it also enables them to access paid employment and work in jobs that are less likely to impact negatively on their health.
  • Women who receive an education are more likely to have the knowledge in regards to health and with the skills to read are likely to listen to the health information.
  • With greater income, women are able to exert more control over their lives and make decisions that are in the best interests on themselves and their families.


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

Gender Disparity in developing countries refers to women having less access then men to education, employment and health

Limited education opportunities for females continues to be an issue in developing countries as it is often seen as the women's job to provide for the family, collecting water and caring for children. Also families with limited income are more likely to provide male children with educational opportunities than females.

In many developing countries there are low enrolment and high drop-out rates for boys and girls due to factors such as:

  • drought, food shortages, armed conflict, poverty and child labour
However these tend to have a greater impact for girls, therefore influencing their ability to attend school.


Generally progress towards achieving gender equality and empowerment of women has been relatively slow.

According to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Report 2010 significant improvements have occurred in some areas:

  • developing regions are progressing towards achieving gender parity in educational enrolment. In 1999 91 girls for every 100 boys were enrolled in primary education and in 2008 the ratio has increased to 96 girls per 1000 boys.
  • globally the number of women in parliament has continued to increase slowly from 11% in 1995 to 19% in 2010.
  • more girls than boys have enrolled in secondary school in Latin America, the Caribbean, Eastern Asia and Southern-Eastern Asia.

However progress has not occurred or has been slow in these areas:

  • gender parity in primary and secondary schools is still out of reach for many developing countries.
  • poverty puts girls at a distinct disadvantage with regards to education.
  • women tend to be paid less and have less secure employment than men.
  • generally women do not have the same opportunities with regards to employment in higher level positions as men.
  • although globally the number of women in parliament has slowly increased to 19% in 2010, it is far short of the MDG target for gender parity.