Everywhere, women and girls must have equal rights and opportunities, as well as the ability to live free of violence and discrimination. Women’s equality and empowerment are not only one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, but they are also essential to all aspects of inclusive and sustainable development. In short, the achievement of Goal 5 is critical to the achievement of all other SDGs. Disparities in access and control of resources between men and women, as well as overt discrimination against women throughout history, are now seen as a stumbling block in national and international development agendas. Gender equality is inextricably linked to all other sustainable development goals, including good governance, human rights, environmental sustainability, and poverty reduction. Women’s empowerment is promoted as a development goal on the basis of two arguments: that social justice is an important aspect of human welfare and is intrinsically worthwhile; and that women’s empowerment is a means of promoting sustainable development. As a result, engendering national development and its processes ensures that both men and women are able to reach their full potential and make decisions free of gender roles. As a result, if any nation is to achieve sustainable development, women’s and men’s needs and interests must be valued and protected equally.
As the ‘gender variable’ enters the development equation, more emphasis is being placed on gaining a better understanding of gender relations, particularly the unequal power distribution between men and women in different societies. Gender equality, for example, does not ignore biological differences between men and women (especially in reproductive roles), but rather helps to appreciate the uniqueness of each gender group and the importance of bringing the different needs and priorities of both men and women into the development agenda, thereby assisting in focusing on gender differences in social arrangements, gender equity, and social justice – all of which are at the heart of sustainable development. To achieve gender equality by 2030, urgent action is needed to address the many root causes of discrimination that continue to limit women’s rights in both the private and public spheres. Discriminatory laws, for example, must be repealed and new legislation enacted to advance equality. Despite this, 49 countries do not have laws protecting women from domestic violence, and 39 do not allow daughters and sons to inherit equally. Given that gender-based violence is one of the most pervasive human rights violations in the world today, eliminating it is a top priority. According to data from 87 countries, one in every five women and girls under the age of 50 has been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the previous year. Every year, harmful practices such as child marriage rob 15 million girls under the age of 18 of their childhood.
Unpaid care and domestic work is done by women 2.6 times more than it is by men. While this work is necessary for families, societies, and economies, it results in lower earnings for women and less time for non-work activities. A fair balance of responsibility for unpaid care work between men and women is required, in addition to equal distribution of economic resources, which is not only a right but also accelerates development in multiple areas. Sexual and reproductive rights are vital in and of themselves. Deficits in these areas amplify other forms of discrimination, such as denying women access to education and decent work. Only 52% of married or in a union women have the freedom to make their own decisions about sexual relations, contraception, and health care. G20 leaders agreed in 2014 to work toward a 25 percent reduction in the gender gap in labor force participation by 2025. Better sharing of unpaid and paid work will be a key component of any strategy to meet this lofty goal. However, change will not occur if gender equality is pushed solely by and for women. If barriers and gender stereotypes are to be broken down, men must also be champions. Men will find a lot of value in it as well. If this becomes more of a shared norm, they will be able to spend more time with their families without jeopardizing their careers.
There will be more freedom to choose one’s role in society, as well as less pressure on men to be the family’s sole or primary breadwinner. Having more income from women’s work will give their families more financial security and reduce overall income inequality. Men and women will both benefit from the broader effects of greater gender equality, such as stronger economic growth, higher productivity, and improved social protection system sustainability. Children will not only be happier spending more time with both of their parents, but they will also accept it as normal for fathers to spend more time at home and mothers to spend more time at work as they grow up. More gender equality is thus a win-win situation in which everyone benefits.