Gender equality is a fundamental right. It is an essential condition to fight poverty, to achieve sustainable development, and to get decent work and obtain social coherence.
Gender equality is at the core of Millennium Development Goal 3.
But there is still a long way to go. Figures show that inequality and discrimination are still embedded in social, cultural and political systems, not just in our partner countries but also in Belgium. In Belgium only 35% of federal members of parliament are women. Only 1 in 4 ministers is a woman. Some of our partner countries are doing better. South Africa, for instance, has 45% female members of parliament and 45% female ministers (2009). In other fields, like health care, nutrition, education and literacy our partner countries are not doing well and support is more than welcome.
Only 18 out of 113 countries will achieve gender equality in primary and secondary education by 2015. More than half a million future mothers die every year in childbirth or because of complications during pregnancy. Genital mutilation is still a ritual practice in some African countries, women are the main victims of violence during conflicts and war, and both young women and men are recruited by rebel armies, drugged, traumatised and marked for their life.
But there are also positive figures. In some African countries children of mothers who have at least attended school for five years are 40% more likely to reach the age of 5. For sub-Saharan Africa is was calculated that agricultural production can increase by 20% if women get easier access to farming land, seeds and fertilisers. It also appears that women invest 90% of their income in their families and community.
BTC integrates the gender aspect in all its projects and programmes (gender mainstreaming).
At the same time specific projects are started to empower women and to give them more independence. In the Dosso region in Niger there is a programme that supports women individually and collectively in view of providing credit and starting income-generating activities. Literacy classes for women and men are a must in this respect. BTC also executes projects to support the participation of women to processes of conflict prevention, peace building and reconstruction of social, economic and political life.
The coming years, BTC wants to pay particular attention to training staff in Belgium and abroad so all activities take into account the gender dimension. This way BTC meets the provisions of the law of January 2007, which aims at integrating the gender dimension in the Belgian federal policy structures. Gender equality is no longer a commitment without obligations.