Why Gender Equality is Key to Development

08 march 2016


Throughout the international development sector people and organisations are fighting for gender equality and parity around the world. We asked women working in the development sector why equality matters to them:


‘There are already so many role models in development, leaders from Aung San Suu Kyi to Malala and Mary Robinson – to name but a few, who show us the importance of equality and the power of women in leadership to change the world. We also see heroes in women around the world working to support their families, communities and countries, often in very difficult circumstances. We need to hear their voices, be guided by their values of participation, diversity, empathy and equality if we are to tackle the terrible tragedy of gender based violence which affects so many women around the world. Only through equality can we truly tackle gender based violence. That is why equality matters so much to me.’ - Suzanne Keatinge, CEO of Dóchas


‘Gender equality is important to me as an individual because I grew up most my life in the village, so I know the struggles that women in the village face. I look at the reasons why girls drop out of school. When I was growing up there were seven of us and only I made it to secondary school. The rest dropped out of school. And I look at where I am today. I was not special. Some of those girls were more intelligent than I was, and I imagine that they would have been in good positions, they would be independent, they would be able to work and support their own children, but now they are still in that chain of poverty. And I feel it is possible to break the cycle of poverty. There are women that are suffering, that are not supposed to be suffering and it would only take someone to encourage them, someone to empower them and that would bring about the change. They say ‘educate a girl child, you educate the nation’. If we empower the women, we can be ensured that a country is empowered.’  - Martha  Khonje, Country Director of ActionAid Malawi


'I believe we need to make the world a better place for current and future generations. It is only when all people are valued as equals that we can really achieve a brighter future, full of ideas and inputs from people across society. We need women leaders and for women to be fully involved in decision-making but to achieve that we need to challenge gendered nuances in everyday life. It needs to start today, in our offices and in our every day lives. ‘Bossy.  Feisty.  Emotional.’  Language permeates our thinking and our culture.  Let’s challenge that. ‘Inspirational. Driven. Committed.’ Let’s pledge for parity and equality.' - Orla Murphy UN Youth Ambassador


Where are we now: 


“In the nineteenth century, the central moral challenge was slavery. In the twentieth century, it was the battle against totalitarianism. We believe that in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality around the world.” ― Nicholas D. Kristof, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide  

Today, on International Women’s Day we recognise that paramount challenge. In the international development sector we believe that gender equality and parity is key to ensuring a sustainable future for the world. This year International Women’s Day falls at a unique time in Irish life. We have just experienced a general election which has been an historic election for women. The figures speak for themselves: 35 women elected as Members of the 32nd Dáil, which means 1 in 5 TDs are now women. This is a huge step forward in terms of female representation. We see women in leadership positions. It shows change is possible.

However, there is still a long road ahead for gender equality and parity in Ireland and around the world. Despite some modest gains in some regions in the world, millions of women are losing ground in their quest for equality in the world of work, with large gender pay gaps remaining across the global labour market, according to a new report prepared by the United Nations International Labour Organisation. A recent study from the World Economic Forum also shows that gender parity may take 117 years to achieve if we continue at the current rate of change. Women today are at the same pay levels as men were in 2006. Women are being left behind. Women around the world still suffer gender based violence- discrimination and inequality. Around the world the battle is far from won. And this is where development can play a key role. 


What is the plan to achieve equality:


There is an urgency when it comes to gender equality. We now have a strong global pathway to achieving this equality through The Sustainable Development Goals. This is a global agreement which sets out an action plan to end poverty and injustice and gender equality is a key part of that plan. Nearly all of the agenda’s goals have a gender component, with Goal 5 focussing specifically on gender equality.  Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Find out more about Goal 5 and what it means for gender equality here.  

See the Dóchas Gender Empowerment Knowledge Hub for why gender empowerment is so important in international development.

For more how women are affected by each of the Sustainable Development Goals see the UN women and the SDGs briefing

“Getting to Equal by 2030: The Future is Now,” highlights the importance of addressing these gaps in equality and parity if the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to be achieved. 

For these goals to be achieved, everyone needs to get involved. Join the fight for equality. 

How you can get involved:


Social Media: This year the theme of International Women's Day is parity. Why not make your personal #PledgeforParity

Get social media pledge cards here

Become an activist for change in your daily life: Get involved and become an activist for change in your organisations or in your communities- you'll find resources and ways you can help here.


Go to a Women's Day Event: 


  • The Audience takes centre stage in an interactive play running this week, produced in conjunction with ActionAid: “Safe Cities for Women – You reACT” will run in Players Theatre, Trinity College at 7.30 pm on Monday 7th and Friday 11th March and the Stagg's Head, 1 Dame Court, at 7.30pm on Wednesday 9th March – Find out more here.  

  • Empowerment is Magic:  To Mark the International Women's Day, Wezesha Dada in co-operation with the Irish School of Ecumenics is hosting a seminar: “Empowerment is the Magic”, Accelerating the 2030 Agenda. The Wezesha report “Healing the wounds of War” will be launched on the day. 10 March 2016, 2:00pm - 4:30pm. For more information/ to register go here

  • TIDI / DSAI Seminar: Gender, Violence and Conflict, Tuesday 8 March 2016; Time: 16:30 – 18:00, TRISS Seminar Room, Room C6.002 (6th Floor), Arts Building, Trinity College Dublin.

  • The National Women’s Council of Ireland is hosting a series of events across the country. Find out more here

Keep an eye on the Dóchas Wednesday News for more events taking place around the country.