Image credit: UN Women. - Photo: 2018

Women Are Being Left Behind in Spite of UN Pledge

By J Nastranis

NEW YORK (IDN) – Two and a half years after the international community adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which pledged not to leave any one behind, women around the world are faced with stark inequalities and grave challenges, says a new report by UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

Titled Turning promises into action: Gender equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, UN Women’s flagship report identifies gaps and opportunities for gender equality, demonstrates through concrete evidence and data the pervasive nature of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere, and puts forth actionable recommendations on how to fulfill the 2030 Agenda.

This first-of-its-kind report examines through a gender lens the progress and challenges in the implementation of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

While the 2030 Agenda focuses on peace, equality and sustainability, women are witnessing rise of conflict, exclusion and environmental degradation. Yet, they are up against an unprecedented set of challenges in all these areas, notes the report released on February 14, stressing the need for urgent action.

Highlights of the findings of the report are:

In 89 countries with available data, women and girls account for 330 million of the poor. This means that four more women are living on less than USD 1.90 a day for every 100 men. The gender gap is particularly wide during the reproductive years.

More than 50 per cent of urban women and girls in developing countries live in conditions where they lack at least one of the following: access to clean water, improved sanitation facilities, durable housing, and sufficient living area.

Eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls is a pre-condition for peaceful societies, yet one in five women under the age of 50 experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the past 12 months.

Between 2010 and 2015, the world lost 3.3 million hectares of forest areas. Poor rural women depend on common pool resources and are especially affected by their depletion.

Presenting the report in New York, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said: “As a world, we committed through the SDGs to leave no one behind. This report’s new data and analysis underlines that, unless progress on gender equality is significantly accelerated, the global community will not be able to keep its promise. This is an urgent signal for action, and the report recommends the directions to follow.”

The report underlines how, in the lives of women and girls, different dimensions of well-being and deprivation are deeply intertwined: a girl who is born into a poor household and forced into early marriage, for example, is more likely to drop out of school, give birth at an early age, suffer complications during childbirth, and experience violence – all SDGs targets – than a girl from a higher-income household who marries at a later age.

The report also looks beyond national averages to uncover the yawning gaps between women and girls who, even within the same country, are living worlds apart because of their income status, race/ethnicity, or where they live.

In the United States, poverty rates among black, Native American, and Alaskan Native women more than double those of white and Asian women, with disparities in education also staggering.

Thirty-eight per cent of Hispanic women in the poorest quintile did not complete high school, compared to a national average of 10 per cent. Other case studies and data sets from the report take an in-depth look at the situation in Colombia, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, and Uruguay.

The report also provides wide-ranging recommendations for change, emphasizing four key areas of action:

Integrated policies that can leverage synergies and help achieve several goals at the same time. Achieving gender equality is not only an important goal in and of itself, but also a catalyst for achieving the 2030 Agenda and a sustainable future for all.

The report shows that reducing the burden of unpaid care work for women by providing free and universal child care would allow them to access employment opportunities, create decent jobs in the social services sector, and improve children’s health and nutritional outcomes.

As simulations for South Africa and Uruguay show, the investment would at least in part pay for itself by generating new jobs and additional tax revenue.

More and better statistics are required, notes the report. “Currently, we cannot actually assess what is happening to women and girls across all 17 SDGs. Six of them have no indicators with explicit mentions of women and girls, and the lack of timely and regular gender data hampers adequate monitoring,” the report points out.

The financing gap to achieve a sustainable world can in fact be closed, the report stresses, by addressing the unrecorded capital flight, including illicit financial flows that developing countries face; by reversing the public expenditure cuts that erode safety nets and essential services in both developed and developing countries; and by using all strategies available for raising domestic revenue.

The report underlines the need for ensuring that those in power are held accountable for gender equality commitments. Indispensable in this effort is a vibrant civil society with space to express itself. [IDN-InDepthNews – 14 February 2018]

Image credit: UN Women.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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