Behind Every Successful Woman...is a Holistic Approach to Gender Equality
UN Women/Franz Stapelberg
According to UN Women, gender equality is a precondition for all other global goals to be met. While significant progress has been made worldwide in primary education, political participation, and employment equality, it has been slow, and there is still much work to be done. While some well known inequalities have gained awareness because of international advocates such as Malala Yousafzai, UN Women has showcased a few other major focus areas when tackling women’s issues:
Child marriage and female genitalia mutilation and cutting are two practices that disproportionately affect women and girls. In a 2014 TED Talk, Khadija Gbla explained the physical and psychological medical consequences for FGM/C victims when she expressed that she once, “felt like I was not a woman because of what was done to me,” and experienced severe menstrual symptoms. While both the number of occurrences of FGM/C and Child Marriage is declining, an estimated 39,000 girls are married per day (UNICEF), and 3 million are at risk for being subjected to FGM/C every year (WHO).
Intimate Partner Violence
Violence against women is significant in the forms of domestic abuse, human trafficking, and physical and sexual violence. In particular, 1 in 5 women experience sexual violence in their relationships by an intimate partner within a 12 month period (UN Women).
The White Ribbon Pakistan Campaign promotes the goals of SDG 5 through workshops, outreach programs, and awareness efforts that encourage a positive role for men in women’s empowerment.
Unpaid Care & Domestic Work
Target 5.2 of SDG 5 aims to recognize the value of unpaid care and domestic work. Because women carry out the majority of this work (3 times more than men), this leaves them with less opportunity to pursue educational goals, paid employment, and political participation. This reinforces the oppression of women worldwide, as they then are financially dependent on their partner, and less likely to report or leave a situation of abuse and violence. The United Nations urges member states to promote shared domestic responsibility and value by investing in public services and social policies that support domestic workers.
Women in Leadership
Historically, women have been left out of government, public, and political affairs. While issues like the wage gap have been gaining much attention in recent years, gender inequality in leadership is still widespread. As seen in this map, the amount of nations that have female heads of government has decreased since 2015, showing that gender inequality in leadership is an issue in more developed nations as well as in developing nations. Even the United Nations has yet to see their first female Secretary-General.
EQUALS, a partnership between UN Women, ITU, ITC, UNU, and GSMA, promotes females leadership in technology by addressing the internet user gender gap, equalizing access to STEM education, and encouraging not just participation, but leadership, in the technology workforce.
Sexual & Reproductive Health
Sexual and reproductive health decisions about a woman’s body, including concerning consensual sexual relations and use of contraceptives and health services, are often not made the woman herself. At a side event on sexual and reproductive health at the 2017 UN High Level Political Forum this week, a representative from the Guttmacher Institute stated that, “Currently there are 214 million women in developing nations that want to avoid pregnancy, but do not have access to modern means of contraceptives.” This lack of healthy resources leads to unsafe methods of abortion and unwanted pregnancy.
Gender Data Gap
While gender equality issues, such as the wage gap, have been gaining attention, the lack of gender data is much more significant in measuring the prevalence and progress of achieving SDG 5. In response to this issue, the UN has initiated the “Making every woman and girl count,” partnership to attempt to address this shortcoming and will aim to transform the production process and use of gender statistics.
For SDG 5 to become a reality, the global community must work together to provide women and girls with equal access to healthcare, education, employment, and participation in political and economic decision making processes. The prevalence of gender equality must be looked at as an issue for everyone, as it is not just an issue in developing countries. For example, Female Genitalia Mutilation threatens over three times more girls in the United States now than in 1990, with New York being home to the second most amount of victimized girls. Marginalized groups such as migrants, ethnic minorities, lower class women, and individuals in the LGBTIQ community face unique issues in pursuing gender equality, so as stated by Dr. Felicity Daly, “Now’s a time to be thinking more holistically,” in the pursuit of gender equality.