Faustina Fynn-Nyame, Director of Marie Stopes International Ghana, recently said “the SDGs will not be as effective as we want if we don’t put women at the centre of everything we do”. And that is exactly what the SDG number 5 aims towards: gender equality. Empowerment of women and girls. The new sustainable development goals are clear: we need to fight to achieve equality between men and women. But, what are the main areas of disparity at this point? What can we do to close the gender gap by 2030?
During the last years, there has certainly been some improvement. However, there are some fields and, especially, some geographic areas, where the situation is far from ideal. Just as an example, 1 in 3 women will experience physical or sexual violence, usually from those who are closest to them.
One of the elements that have taken a major role in the conversations about gender equality is reproductive health and safe abortion. Every year, 21.6 million women risk their lives in unsafe abortions, most of them in the developing world. It is not surprising to see how UNFPA ESARO states in its Twitter account: “Achieving the SDGs and FR2020 objectives will depend on whether women and girls have the means to prevent or delay a pregnancy”.
Because while conferences such as Women Deliver, which has been happening for the last 4 years, are essential and a clear step forward, truth is that women are still in greater risk of poverty, violence and financial problems than men. As the UN explains, “In an economic downturn, poor women are less likely to have savings and abilities to make up for lost income. Poor girls are more than twice as likely to marry in childhood as those who are wealthy. They then face potentially life-threatening risks from early pregnancy, and often lose hopes for an education and a better income”.
Another area where gender disparities are sharp is the labour market. The average woman makes 24% less than her male counterparts. Ending this kind of discrimination would not only help women, but also economies. The UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, explains that “without gender equality and a full role for women in society, in the economy, in governance, we will not be able to achieve the world we hoped for”.
We are clearly conscious about these disparities. How can we then explain that the situation remains the same? A possible explanation is that those to commit to change it are not the same actors who implement these changes. Moreover, we suffer from a lack of information when it comes to data about women, a data gap explained by the fact that “many women get missed out because they consider themselves primarily as housewives, when in reality they work on farms, do part-time jobs and seasonal work or run their own businesses”, says Mayra Buvinic, from the Center for Global Development. Buvinic’s theory is supported by Melinda Gates, who doesn’t hesitate to say that “we can’t close the gender gap without first closing the data gap”.
The fifth sustainable development goal aims to “end all forms of discrimination against women and girls everywhere” and eliminate as well any form of violence against them in both public and private spheres. While 143 countries claim to guarantee gender equality in their Constitutions, there are still 52 where women cannot count on their countries’ laws to ensure equality. As UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin says “while trends hold great promise, overall progress has been unacceptably slow. We will not stop until we cross the finish line and realize equality between girls and boys and women and men”.