Caoimhe Durkan continues her series on the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, this week focusing on Goal 5: gender equality. 


Goal 5

When we think of working towards a more sustainable future, achieving gender equality may not be the first thing that springs to mind. Ensuring that men and women have equal rights, social and political power, and access to education is, however, an integral part of the journey toward a brighter, more sustainable world. This month, I’ll be taking a look at the ins and outs of SDG no. 5, and how it ties in with the UN’s vision of a brighter future for all.


Why is achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls included as one of the Sustainable Development Goals?

In a wider historical context, huge leaps have been made in recent decades towards achieving gender equality on a global scale. Nonetheless, inequalities between men and women still exist in every society. The UN has found that many women across the globe are still denied access to basic education and health care and are “under-represented in political and economic decision-making processes”.


How does goal no. 5 relate to the remaining 16 SDG’s?

Ensuring that all men and women have equal access to health care and education is vital in the eradication of poverty (goal no. 1), the improvement of infrastructure (goal no. 9), and in increasing the productivity of agricultural plots (goal no. 15). Project Drawdown, a study carried out by a coalition of scientists, researchers, policy makers, economists, and business people found that educating girls can contributed to economic growth (goal no. 8), and found it to be “one of the most powerful levers available for avoiding emissions by curbing population growth”. Ensuring women have access to family planning can help control the amount of children born each year. Though controversial, the issue of population is one which must be addressed due to “widespread agreement that greater numbers place more strain on the planet”.


What are the Goal 5 targets?

The Goal 5 targets include the ending of discrimination against women and girls, the eradication of early and forced marriage, of violence against women, and female genital mutilation. The UN has committed to ensuring equal access to health, education, economic resources, and ownership rights, and to “ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life”.


Are countries doing enough to empower women and girls?

Recognising the importance of gender-responsive climate action, The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) looked into how countries incorporated gender considerations into their National Adaption Plan (NAP), designed to identify coping mechanisms for the effects of climate change. The IISD found that while “most countries are making an effort to address gender considerations in their NAP documents”, of the documents reviewed “all that mention women identify them as a vulnerable group” or “beneficiaries of adaptation actions”, with “very few of the documents mention[ing] their role as the agents of change”. In order to achieve gender equality, nations “need to focus more on the different strengths and capacities of both women and men and how these can be applied to the challenge of adapting to climate change”. Former Irish president Mary Robinson and comedian Maeve Higgin’s highlight the power of women to effect change in their podcast Mothers of Invention, highlighting how “Climate change is a man-made problem — with a feminist solution”. In order to achieve a sustainable future for all, each nation must recognize the combined complimentary skills of both men and women, and promote the role of women in society as powerful agents of change, and enablers of climate justice, rather than as victims or beneficiaries.




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Image courtesy of Thomas Young via Unsplash

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