Mumbai Veterinary College, Parel, Mumbai, MAFSU, Maharashtra, INDIA
Globally, women have fewer opportunities for economic participation than men, less access to basic and higher education, greater health and safety risks, and less political representation. The word gender describes the socially constructed roles and responsibilities that societies consider appropriate for men and women. Gender equality means that men and women have equal power and equal opportunities for financial independence, education, and personal development. Women's empowerment is a critical aspect of achieving gender equality. It includes increasing a woman's sense of self-worth, her decision-making power, her access to opportunities and resources, her power and control over her own life inside and outside the home, and her ability to effect change. Gender equality is at the core of the achievement of the eight development Goals. The failure to achieve gender equality targets will severely compromise the achievement of other goals and targets. It is therefore critical that actions are taken to accelerate progress on Goal three. According to the World Bank, “gender issues are highly relevant to achieving all of the MDGs, be it protecting the environment, achieving sustainable development or enabling universal access to health care”. Yet gender issues are not focused on women alone, but on the relationship between men and women in society. The actions and attitudes of men and boys play an essential role in achieving gender equality. Women's access to paid work may give them a greater sense of self-reliance and greater purchasing power, but if it is undertaken in conditions that erode their health and exploit their labour, its costs may outweigh its benefits. The question, therefore, is to what extent the international community is prepared to provide support to women at the grassroots support which will ensure that they have the collective capabilities necessary to play this role.