Outline and Explain two reasons why some sociologists think improving gender equality is the primary development goal.

This is a possible 10 mark question which could come up on exam paper 7192 (2) – topics in Sociology, under the Global Development Option.

For more general advice on answering exam questions for A-level sociology please see this page.

The strategy for these 10 markers is to join up the dots, make links between gender and all other parts of the Global Development module – it shouldn’t be too difficult as everything is related to everything in fairly obvious ways for this topic!

Below is just one suggestion for an answer…

The first reason is that women make up half of the population and they have historically been disempowered in most cultures on earth. Thus by focussing on empowering women we can improve pretty much ever other aspect of development.

Focussing on improving girls and women’s education can have huge knock on positive effects – firstly it will immediately improve the school enrolment rates, as it is mainly girls who traditionally are not in school!

Also, by educating girls, this creates job opportunities for them in later life, meaning greater independence, and may also help to break traditional values threat modernisation theorists think prevent development.

Especially where girls are held back by traditional values, getting them into school can be a great way of breaking this cycle, maybe the only way.

Education can also be a decent way of preventing violence and abuse by men – it can be an important starting point in protecting them against Rape, FGM and other forms of male violence.

In the longer term, with more women in work and politics as a result of raised aspirations we may see a decline in global violence and militarism which we have in the current male dominated global political sphere – which is very important as nothing prevents development like conflict!

Focussing on improving maternal health care is also the most effective way at improving life expectancy – most deaths in poor countries are avoidable, and many are because of children dying in infancy.

By focussing on better maternal health the infant mortality rate will decrease and women will less inclined to have more children. Also if women are given better care during pregnancy, the same is also true.

Going forwards if women know they have decent maternal health care they can start to aspire to have only one or two children rather than being tied into a cycle of having several children, which ties women to a life of domestic drudgery.

With fewer children women are more likely to be able to do paid work, which is also beneficial for development because women tend to reinvest more in their families compared to men.

Having said all of this it is crucial that improving opportunities for girls and women is done appropriately, as there may be local resistance from patriarchal culture, so it may not be easy!

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