No Gender Equality, no SDGs


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There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 169 targets and 230 indicators.

Just looking at those numbers makes achieving all of them seem extremely challenging, if not somewhat impossible! But take any of the 17 SDGs and ask yourself: “Can this goal be achieved without gender equality?”

2030, the year by which we have pledged to achieve the SDGs is really not that far away. The latest SDG progress report launched by the UN Secretary General showed that there was an urgent need for acceleration in the rate of implementation if we want to meet our targets.

Goal 5: Gender Equality is not only recognized as an accelerator and as a goal in and of its own. With women making up half the population, not addressing gender equality can also act as a hindrance for overall development . It slows down progress.

For example, if we were to tackle bettering women’s access to sexual and reproductive health, rights and services, this would also directly link to reductions in maternal mortality and supporting the end of communicable diseases such as HIV and AIDS (SDG 3). When women and girls have autonomy over their health, it has positive effects on education (SDG 4), sanitation and hygiene (SDG 6), and employment (SDG 8).

Earlier this year, representatives of national machineries for gender equality from Asia Pacific countries (and by ‘machineries’ I am referring to national ministries such as Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection, Ministry of Gender & Family, Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, National Commission on Women and Children, or Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development) gathered to share their country’s efforts and experiences in using gender equality as an accelerator to achieve the SDGs. I had the honour of sitting down with some of them to conduct interviews and ask them what gender equality meant to them and discuss the challenges they might face in their work.

While notable issues like a lack of gender-sensitive data and low levels of inclusivity in decision-making were mentioned, the one challenge that really stood out to me was the struggle they went through to have their voices heard by other ministries, and to have a seat at the table when budgetary and policy decisions are being made.

It is essential that national machineries for gender equality have a seat at the table. They are the ones who hold governments accountable for gender equality in their country, and work towards ensuring that a gender perspective is integrated into national plans. And this is important because without gender equality, goals such as ‘no poverty’, ‘good health and well-being’, ‘quality education’, ‘peace, justice, and strong institutions’ simply cannot be achieved. I realized that these men and women weren’t just gender equality champions, they were key players for the other SDGs as well.

As an intern at UNDP, I get to see how gender equality is integrated into all aspects of work.

This is because UNDP recognizes gender equality as something central to its development mandate. Strategic entry points to advance gender equality are sought after in all areas of its work. It also plays an important role in supporting national machineries for gender equality to have a legitimate place in conversations about the SDGs.

An example of these national machineries working in collaboration with UNDP is Malaysia who are currently in the process of partnering up with the private sector to implement the Gender Equality Seal Certification Programme. This has already had huge success in Latin America, and we are hopeful to see it gain momentum in the Asia-Pacific region as well.

The way I see it, advancing gender equality is a huge opportunity and one that should not be missed.

So let’s work hard, but also importantly, work smart.


Haruka Tsumori is an intern with the UNDP BRH Gender Team, and is currently pursuing a B.A. in International Relations at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan.

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