6 Promote gender equality and empower women

Where are we?

Improvement of living conditions of rural women in Morocco through the development of goats breeding

Life expectancy of women has increased, fertility rates and maternal mortality rates have decreased, and women’s literacy rates and access to all levels of education have considerably improved. Most Arab countries have made considerable progress in eliminating gender disparity in access to education, particularly at the primary level, although differences between individual countries and sub-regions continue to exist.

The gender parity index (GPI), which measures the ratio of girls to boys in education, has substantially increased at all levels of education in most Arab states, although remarkable differences exist between the three most successful sub-regions, the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries (GCC), the Arab Maghreb and the Arab Mashreq, and the Arab Least Developed Countries.

The region also witnessed legislative reform as several laws discriminating against women were reformed, while new laws were enacted to protect them and ensure their increasing participation in public life.

The educational achievements of women have yet to be translated into greater economic and political participation. Women’s participation in the labor force and political representation in national parliaments still remains very limited in the Arab region.


Female primary enrolment ratio (as a percentage of male ratio) in Arab countries

Sources: Human Development Reports, several issues (net enrolment ratios). ESCWA (2004) Millennium Development Goals in ESCWA, Report on progress 2004. Gender parity index in primary level enrolment, United Nations Statistics division, Millennium Development Goals Database.

UNDP's work in the Arab States

  • UNDP in Iraq

    Women’s economic empowerment in Iraq

    A number of remarkable Iraqi women entrepreneurs who managed to break social barriers and venture with successful small businesses came together to share the challengesmore

Targets for MDG3
  1. Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015
    • Ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education
    • Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector
    • Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament