6 Promote gender equality and empower women

Where are we?

Photo by Jamal Penjweny/UNDP Iraq 2013

Eliminating gender disparity at all levels of education will help increase the status and capabilities of women. Iraq enjoys a high rate of gender parity in primary and secondary school enrollment and has continued to make progress. In 2000, the percentage of girls to boys enrolled in primary education was 85% and this has steadily increased over the years, to 88% in 2006 and to 94% in 2011. For secondary education, the percentage increased from 66% in 2000 to 85% in 2011.

The percentage of women in paid employment in the non-agricultural sector has risen from 12.1% in 2008 to 14.7% in 2011. These percentages vary depending on location: in Erbil, this fi­gure stands at 19.8%, while in Ninewa the fi­gure is 7.8%. This indicator measures the degree to which labour markets are open to women in industry and service sectors, which affects not only equal employment opportunity for women but also economic efficiency through flexibility of the labour market and, therefore, the economy’s ability to adapt to change. Currently in Iraq, only one in six people in the labour force is female.

Iraq’s national percentage of literate females to male ratio, aged 15-24, is an impressive 91%, but again inconsistency persists. Half of the governorates exceed this number and Wassit has met the 2015 target of 100%, while Missan and Muthanna have the lowest rates of 77% and 79% respectively. Many factors have contributed to the educational gender-divide in Iraq including limited numbers of schools for girls and traditional preferences to educate boys over girls. The indicator measures progress towards gender equity in literacy and learning opportunities for women in relation to those for men. It also measures a presumed outcome of attending school and a key indicator of empowerment of women in society.

The participation of women in politics remains below the target level. In 2010, the average rate of parliament seats held by women was 27%.  The highest rate was found in Muthanna with 40 % while the worst rate was Salah Al-din with only 9.1%. The target rate of 50% by 2015 is highly unlikely. Despite Iraq’s successful fulfillment of its constitutional mandate of allocating 25% of all parliamentary seats to women, they remain underrepresented in the higher decision-making levels of the public sector and government. Women’s representation in parliament is one aspect of women’s opportunities in political and public life, and is closely linked to their empowerment.

Unfortunately, gender equality is not expected to be achieved in Iraq by 2015 due to the continuing influence of cultural and social factors.

UNDP's work in Iraq

  • A woman receives legal counselling in Iraq

    Easy and Affordable Counsel

    Many Iraqis confronting the judicial system do not have either the legal knowledge on how to defend or enforce their rights nor have the financial meansmore

  • Photo by UNDP Iraq 2012

    Equality Means Business

    Stories of economic achievement of Iraqi women inspire banks into establishing financing facilities for small entrepreneurs A number of remarkable Iraqi women entrepreneurs who managed tomore

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