SDG Goal 5: Gender equality

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Women make up more than two-thirds of the world’s 750 million adults without basic literacy skills; women represent less than 30% of the world’s researchers; and women journalists are more exposed to assault, threat or physical, verbal or digital attack than their male counterparts.

UNESCO believes that all forms of discrimination based on gender are violations of human rights, as well as a significant barrier to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large. Implementing new legal frameworks regarding female equality in the workplace and the eradication of harmful practices targeted at women is crucial to ending the gender-based discrimination prevalent in many countries around the world.

The targets set under the goal include ending all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere, eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation, eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation, recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate, ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences

While some indicators of gender equality are progressing, such as a significant decline in the prevalence of female genital mutilation and early marriage, the overall numbers continue to be high. Moreover, insufficient progress on structural issues at the root of gender inequality, such as legal discrimination, unfair social norms and attitudes, decision-making on sexual and reproductive issues and low levels of political participation, are undermining the ability to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5.

The practice of child marriage has continued to decline around the world, largely driven by progress in South Asia, where a girl’s risk of marrying in childhood decreased by about one quarter between 2013 and 2018. In sub-Saharan Africa, levels of child marriage have declined at a more modest rate.

At least 200 million girls and women have been subjected to female genital mutilation, based on data from 30 countries where the practice is concentrated and where nationally representative prevalence data is available. In these countries, the prevalence of this harmful practice declined by one quarter between approximately 2000 and 2018.

According to recent data from some 90 countries, women devote on average roughly three times more hours a day to unpaid care and domestic work than men, limiting the time available for paid work, education and leisure and further reinforcing gender-based socioeconomic disadvantages.

Women continue to be underrepresented at all levels of political leadership. As at 1 January 2019, women’s representation in national Parliaments ranged from 0 to 61.3 per cent, with the average standing at 24.2 per cent, an increase from 19 per cent in 2010. At the local level, data from 99 countries and areas show that women’s representation in elected deliberative bodies varies from less than 1 per cent to 48 per cent, with the median of the distribution at 26 per cent. When legislated gender quotas are adopted, significantly higher proportions of women are elected at both national and local levels.

While women represented 39 per cent of world employment, only 27 per cent of managerial positions in the world were occupied by women in 2018, up only marginally from 26 per cent in 2015. The proportion of women in management has increased since 2000 in all regions except in least developed countries.

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