In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as the agreed framework for international development. It has a stand-alone goal on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. In addition, there are gender equality targets in other goals. In this article I seek to specifically highlight the work done on Goal 4, ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’, and Goal 5, ‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’.
These goals seek to change the course of our future. Female empowerment is a pre-condition for this, and women have a critical role to play. While a record 143 countries guaranteed equality between men and women in their Constitutions by 2014, another 52 had not taken this step. In many nations, gender discrimination is still woven through legal and social norms. Stark gender disparities remain in economic and political realms. While there has been some progress over the decades, on average women in the labour market still earn significantly less than men.
Developing regions of the world have almost achieved equal enrolment of boys and girls in primary school. This is an historic accomplishment, but far from complete. For example, in sub–Saharan Africa, only 23 per cent of poor rural girls finish primary school. Gender gaps widen significantly in many countries in secondary and tertiary schools. Education is a right. It empowers individuals to increase their well-being and contributes to broader social and economic gains. Improved education accounts for about 50 per cent of economic growth in OECD countries over the past five decades. About half of this is due to more women entering higher levels of education, and greater equality as to the years men and women spend in school. For education to deliver, it must be inclusive and high-quality. Active efforts to end gender stereotypes must tackle those that limit schooling or channel women and girls into ‘acceptable’ areas of study or work. For all girls and boys, men and women, education must be available across their lifetimes.
We are lucky to be born into this time and place. Our girls – your daughters – are for the most part blessed to be unexposed directly to the majority of the global issues above. However, it continues to be everyone’s responsibility to ensure the gains made continue to the point where equal rights and gender equity no longer are an issue to be discussed.
This article is based on the UN report ‘WOMEN AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS’. Read the report
Dr John Fry
Deputy Principal - Studies