Education and the UN Millennium Development Goals 2015

The eight Millennium Development Goals, adopted by the international community in 2000, set targets for 2015 on eradicating poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV and AIDS and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and providing financing for development.

All eight MDGs impact on the well-being of girls and women.


Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger & Reduce Child Mortality


1eradicatepovertyGoal One: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger

Target 1.A: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than   $1.25 a day

Target 1.B: Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people

Target 1.C: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

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  • The proportion of people living in extreme poverty declined by half at the global level.
  • In developing regions, the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day fell from 47 per cent in 1990 to 22 per cent in 2010, five years ahead of schedule.
  • While the proportion of undernourished people globally decreased from 23.2 per cent in 1990-1992 to 14.9 per cent in 2010-2012, this still leaves 870 million people — one in eight worldwide—going hungry


BUT the gender gap in employment persists, with a 24.8 percentage point difference between men and women in the employment-to-population ratio in 2012.

4childmortalityGoal Four: Reduce Child Mortality

Target 4.A:  Reduce by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate.

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  • Since 1990,the under-five mortality rate has dropped by 47 percent.
  • While around 17,000 fewer children are dying each day
  • More than 10 million lives have been saved through measles vaccines since 2000.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, one in ten children dies before age five, more than 15 times the average for developed regions.


Physiologically, boys are less likely to survive than girls. Still, Southern Asia provides exceptions to this trend as mortality rates still reflect practices related to son preference in some countries

Achieve universal primary education & Promote gender equality and empower women

More on this subject at

2achieveeducationGoal Two: Achieve Universal Primary Education

Target 2.A: Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.

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  • Literacy rates among adults and youths are on the rise and gender gaps are narrowing. Globally, there were 95 literate young women for every 100 young men in 2010, compared with 90 women in 1990.
  • New national data show the number of out-of-school children dropped from 102 million to 57 million from 2000 to 2011.
  • Primary education enrolment in developing countries reached 90 per cent in 2010.


BUT across 63 developing countries, girls were more likely to be out of school than boys among both primary and lower secondary age groups. The gender gap in school attendance widens in lower secondary education, even for girls living in better-off households.


3genderequalityGoal Three: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

Target 3.A:  Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015.

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  • Steady progress has been made towards equal access of girls and boys to education, though disparities remain between regions and education levels.
  • Globally, the share of women employed outside of agriculture rose to 40 per cent, but rose to only 20 per cent in Southern Asia, Western Asia and Northern Africa.
  • The global share of women in parliament continues to rise slowly and reached 20 per cent in 2012—far short of gender parity, though an increase of one percentage point was seen during 2012.


BUT Gender parity in schooling worldwide is closest to being achieved at the primary level; however, only 2 out of 130 countries have achieved that target at all levels of education.

 Globally, 40 out of 100 wage-earning jobs in the non-agricultural sector are held by women. But women still enter the labour market on an unequal basis to men, even after accounting for educational background and skills.

 As of 31 January 2013, the average share of women members in parliaments worldwide was just over 20 per cent. At the pace witnessed during the last 15 years, it will take nearly 40 years to reach the parity zone in parliaments.


Maternal Health, Environmental Sustainability and Global Partnerships


5maternalhealthGoal Five: Improve Maternal Health

Target 5.A: Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio

Target 5.B: Achieve universal access to reproductive health.

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  • Globally, maternal mortality declined by 47 per cent over the last two decades.
  • Maternal mortality has declined by about two-thirds in Eastern Asia, Northern Africa and Southern Asia.
  • Only half of pregnant women in developing regions receive the recommended minimum of four antenatal care visits.
  • Complications during pregnancy or childbirth are one of the leading causes of death or adolescent girls.
  • Some 140 million women worldwide who are married or in union say they would like to delay or avoid pregnancy, but do not have access to voluntary family planning.
  • Most maternal deaths in developing countries are preventable through adequate nutrition, proper health care, including access to family planning, the presence of a skilled birth attendant during delivery and emergency obstetric care.       


BUT Women’s empowerment is a prerequisite to forward progress on this stalled goal.

 Practices that bring danger to mother and child such as child marriage, female genital cutting, dietary restrictions, and all other forms of violence and discrimination against women must end if maternal mortality is to be reduced.

Girls who marry young have fewer opportunities to go to school, less say in household decision-making, and are more likely to experience domestic violence. They are exposed to the risks of early pregnancy and childbirth, the leading cause of death for girls aged 15 to 19 in developing countries.

Women die for lack of family planning, inability to negotiate the number and spacing of their children, lack of money to pay for transport to and for skilled birth attendance or emergency obstetric care, and from violence.

One in three maternal deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth could be avoided if women who wanted effective contraception had access to it.

In societies where men traditionally control household finances, women’s health expenses are often not a priority.


Goal Six: Combat HIV, Malaria and Other Diseases

Target 6.A: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS

Target 6.B: Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it

Target 6.C: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.

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  • Worldwide, the number of people newly infected with HIV continues to fall, dropping 33 per cent from 2001 to 2011.
  • In 2012, 290,000 fewer children under age 15 were infected with HIV than in 2001.
  • A record 9.7 million people were receiving antiretroviral therapy for HIV in 2012.
  • In the decade since 2000, 1.1 million deaths from malaria were averted.
  • Treatment for tuberculosis has saved some 20 million lives between 1995 and 2011.


HIV remains the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age worldwide.

Every minute, a young woman is infected with HIV.

Young women are more vulnerable to HIV infection due to a complex interplay of physiological factors and gender inequality.

Because of their low economic and social status in many countries, women and girls are often at a disadvantage when it comes to negotiating safer sex and accessing HIV prevention information and services.

Environmental Sustainability and Global Partnerships for Development


7environmentGoal Seven: Ensure Environmental Sustainability

Target 7.A:  Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources.

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  • More than 2.1 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources since 1990, exceeding the MDG target.
  • While almost 2 billion more people now have access to proper sanitation than in 1990, 2.5 billion still do not have access to toilets or latrines.
  • An estimated 863 million people reside in slums in developing countries.
  • Global carbon dioxide emissions have increased by more than 46 percent since 1990.
  • Nearly one-third of marine fish stocks have been over exploited and the world’s fisheries can no longer produce maximum sustainable yields.
  • More species are at risk of extinction despite an increase in protected areas.
  • Forests, particularly in South America and Africa are disappearing at an alarming rate.


Where water sources are not readily accessible, women and girls often bear the burden of collection and must walk long distances to satisfy household needs. With improved access to safe drinking water, women have more time to earn income, girls are more likely to attend school, family health and hygiene are improved, and women suffer less from the burden of carrying heavy loads.

Without title to land, women are often denied access to technologies and resources– such as water resources, irrigation services, credit, extension, and seed– that strengthen their capacity to manage natural resources (of which they are often the primary users as farmers and household managers) in a more sustainable manner.

Women are disproportionately affected by extreme weather resulting from climate change and their voices must be included, both in household and political decision.-making.


8globalpartnershipGoal Eight: Global Partnership for Development

Target 8.A: Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system

Target 8.B: Address the special needs of least developed countries

Target 8.C: Address the special needs of landlocked developing countries and small island developing States

Target 8.D: Deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries

Target 8.E: In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries

Target 8.F: In cooperation with the private sector, make available benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications.

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  • Official development assistance stood at $126 billion in 2012.
  • A total of 83 per cent of least developed country exports enter developed countries duty-free.
  • In 2012, trade of developing countries and transition economies outpaced the world
  • In the developing world, 31 per cent of the population use the Internet, compared with 77 per cent of the developed world.


In 2010–2011, out of a total of $91.9 billion of sector-allocable aid, $20.5 billion focused on the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment.
More men than women are using the Internet. Globally, 37 per cent of all women are online, compared to 41 per cent of all men. The gender gap is more pronounced in the developing world, where 29 per cent of women use the Internet, compared with 33 per cent of men.

*Icons and Fact Sheets courtesy of the United Nations Millennium Goals

United Nations Department for Internal Development. (2005)

Girls Education: Towards a better future for all.

Theme: education as a right, educational barrier for girls,  educational costs, gender inequality, conflict, social exclusion, solutions, international organizations

Summary: Educating girls helps to make communities and societies healthier, wealthier and safer. It can help to reduce child deaths, improve maternal health and tackle the spread of HIV and AIDS. It underpins the achievement of all the other Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Barriers that prevent girls from getting a quality education include educational cost for families, poor and hostile work environments, women’s inferior position within society, forced marriages, civil conflicts and war, and social exclusion.


Website: J Golden

Research Asst: H Sadkowski

& P Haastrup

Site Design: W Cudlip

Photos: J Golden, Ryerson University

& N Cole 


Professor Jean Golden Ryerson University


Site Designer: Walt Cudlip



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