• Friday, April 12, 2024
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Gender equality as a catalyst for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

Gender equality as a catalyst for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

Every year on March 8th, better known as International Women’s Day, the world comes together to celebrate and recognize the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements and contributions women make in their communities and society.

Despite the gains, many challenges remain for women in the 21st century including gender-based violence, pay and employment discrimination, limited access to education and healthcare, gender stereotypes and biases, climate change, and the digital divide. Women and girls are often among the most marginalized and vulnerable members of society.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, increasing women’s labor force participation to match men’s could add $12 trillion to the global economy. Gender equality is therefore an integral part of the global development agenda, and it is essential to address the challenges women face to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Gender equality is not just a goal in and of itself; it is essential for the achievement of all the SDGs and without it progress on the SDGs is likely to be slow and uneven.

How gender equality can achieve each Sustainable Development Goals

The World Bank estimates that women account for 50 percent of the world’s poor. One way to reduce poverty and tackle Sustainable Development Goal 1 on No Poverty is to improve women’s access to resources, such as land and credit. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation report in 2020 if women were to have equal access to land, food production they could increase yields by up to 30%, which in turn helps to reduce poverty and hunger.

One in three women worldwide experiencing physical or sexual violence, gender-based violence is a major public health issue according to Reports by UN Women. To achieve good health and well-being for all under Goal 3, we must address women’s unique health challenges, such as maternal mortality and reproductive health issues, which require specific attention which includes healthcare policies, programs, and services that consider their unique biological and social factors. These includes providing gender- sensitive healthcare, maternal and reproductive healthcare, health education with adequate funding in place to support the above.

Goal 4 focuses on quality education and in many countries, girls are less likely than boys to attend school and are more likely to drop out early. Period poverty also contributes to this in sub-Saharan Africa, where one in 10 girls are estimated to miss school during their menstrual cycle, approximately 20 percent of a school year. Education is therefore a key factor in reducing child marriage and promoting women’s empowerment according to a report by UNICEF published in 2020 on Ending Child Marriage.

Achieving gender equality in line with Goal 5 is not only a matter of human rights but also makes economic sense. Women are more likely than men to work in informal, low-paying jobs with poor working conditions according to an International Labour Organization (ILO) published in 2018 on Women and Men in the Informal Economy. Increasing access to decent work and formal labour force participation by women, closing the gender pay gap and promoting women’s leadership and political participation are some of the initiatives that can unlock the potential of half of the population to contribute to the economy and society, leading to increased productivity, economic growth and improved quality of life for all.

Advancing Goal 8 on Decent Work and Economic Growth will lead to growth in women’s entrepreneurship and leadership in business and can contribute to economic growth and innovation. A study by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) found that companies with more women in leadership positions tend to have better financial performance and higher levels of innovation. Gender equality is also essential for promoting women’s political participation and leadership.

When it comes to the manufacturing workforce, and in innovation-driven industries, women are often underrepresented. According to The Future of Jobs Report 2020″ published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), women represent only 25% of the global manufacturing workforce and are often concentrated in low-paying, low-skilled jobs. Improving access to education and training in STEM fields for women and girls can help to address the gender gap in innovation and industry and improve economic opportunities for women more broadly and help us achieve Goal 9, which focuses on Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure.

Women’s participation in decision-making at all levels is essential for promoting peace, justice, and strong institutions. This includes promoting women’s participation in politics, law enforcement, and the judiciary, which will lead to the achievement of Goal 16 on Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions.

What can organisations do to achieve gender equality?

Achieving gender equality requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses the root causes of gender inequality, including discrimination, stereotypes, and cultural norms that reinforce gender roles and limit opportunities for women and girls. This approach must involve key stakeholders, including governments, civil society organizations, the private sector, and individuals.

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Through policy and legislative measures, governments can promote gender equality. This includes designing gender-sensitive and progressive policies and programs that promote gender equality in the workplace, measures to improve access to education, health care, and other services for women and girls, and passing laws that prohibit discrimination based on gender.

Civil society organizations have a critical role to play in advocating for gender equality and holding governments and other stakeholders accountable for their commitments to gender equality. They can also provide support and services to women and girls, including access to education, health care, and legal assistance.

The private sector has a responsibility to promote gender equality through their operations, policies, and practices. This includes ensuring equal pay for equal work, providing opportunities for women to advance to leadership positions, and investing in programs to improve access to education, training, and other resources for women and girls. Companies can also promote gender equality by supporting women-led businesses and investing in products and services that meet the needs of women and girls.

Individuals also play a role in promoting gender equality through their daily actions and interactions. This includes challenging gender stereotypes and biases, supporting women-led businesses and organizations, and advocating for gender equality in their communities and workplaces.

By working together, we can create a more equitable and sustainable world for all.

Wakiaga is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and is the Senior Private Sector Development Advisor: Industrialisation Practice at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.