When UN Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, they recognized the central role of girls and women in delivering progress for all of humanity. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5—gender equality and the empowerment of girls and women—was created to tackle gender-based barriers and realize the rights of every girl and every woman, everywhere.
But we—as advocates, leaders, decision-makers, and allies—must go beyond considering investment in girls and women as a standalone goal. In a time of global uncertainty and pressing challenges to human rights, the full and equal realization of the 2030 Agenda requires investing in gender equality across every SDG.
As we gather at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF 2019) to take stock of progress in education, economic growth, reducing inequalities, climate action, and peace and justice (SDGs 4, 8, 10, 13, and 16 respectively), we must prioritize gender equality and put girls and women at the center of these sustainable development efforts. Doing so reflects the multidimensional reality of girls’ and women’s lives, and pays dividends too. A gender equal world is a world that is healthier, wealthier, more equitable, and more peaceful, and investing in girls and women creates a positive ripple effect that lifts up entire communities and countries.
Here’s how investing in gender equality would be beneficial to the SDGs under review at HLPF 2019:
Quality education (SDG 4) is vital to more productive, prosperous, and healthy economies. Educating girls and women in particular unlocks the potential to improve health, nutrition, social justice, and economic prosperity for current and future generations. Despite these positive returns, girls are still 1.5 times more likely than boys to be denied their right to a primary education. However, if we want to build a better future for all, we have to ensure that inclusive and equitable education and lifelong learning opportunities are available for all – including girls and women.
Achieving inclusive and sustainable economic growth (SDG 8) also depends on women’s economic empowerment. Women are resilient and resourceful economic agents, who overcome persistent gender-based barriers to advance their careers, their livelihoods, and their wellbeing. Boosting women’s participation in the economy would benefit not only individual women, but also their families, communities, and countries. When women thrive, we all stand to benefit: narrowing gender gaps could add $12 trillion to the global economy by 2025.
On the other hand, if we don’t invest in girls and women, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights, there could be negative economic impact. For example, a new study announced at the Women Deliver 2019 Conference conducted by the Population Council with Women Deliver found a strong and consistent lifelong negative association between giving birth before age 18 and a woman’s economic empowerment.
Climate change (SDG 13) and environmental degradation are other areas that need our focus and a gender lens to achieve the SDGs. Research points to their potential negative effects on health, food security, migration, and livelihoods. Given many girls’ and women’s roles in agricultural production and as the procurers and consumers of water, cooking fuel, and other household resources, girls and women are not only well suited to find solutions to prevent further degradation, mitigate climate change, and adapt to its impacts — they have a vested interest in doing so. So while girls and women bear the brunt of climate change, they are also the world’s best bet in the fight for a clean, healthy, and sustainable planet.
Paving the way for more women in the political, business, and civic arenas is an investment in more just, equitable, and peaceful societies (SDG 16). Girls and women have a right to engage in civil society, vote in elections, be elected to government office, serve on boards, and make their voices heard in any process that will ultimately affect them, their families, and their communities. And increased equality in these arenas would have a ripple effect: For example, research shows that women’s participation in resolution processes increases the chances of peace agreements lasting for fifteen years by 35%. However, globally, girls and women continue to be marginalized from the political sphere due to restrictive laws, institutional barriers, and discriminatory cultural practices.
The evidence is clear. Girls and women have a strong role to play across the SDGs under review at HLPF 2019 and must be placed at the center of development if we are to achieve the 2030 Agenda. But prioritizing gender equality and the health, rights, and wellbeing of girls and women requires investment—not just financial, but political too. That’s why the Deliver for Good Campaign urges you to sign the commitment to girls and women and pledge to advance gender equality and power progress for all.