Progress has been made in the fight for gender equality —namely on the education front, as girls and boys now have equal access to primary education (UN, 2015). However, discrimination and violence against women and girls still exist both in the developing and developed world. A few examples are the kidnapping of over 200 girls by the terrorist group Boko Haram in 2014, the global prostitution and human trafficking networks and that harmful —even potentially fatal— traditions such as female genital mutilation and marrying small girls to adult men are still in place. Moreover, women in developed and developing countries systematically face discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace and other environments.
The impact of gender inequality and discrimination on women is long-lasting and does not always encompass physical or sexual violence. There is an ongoing social phenomenon in which women and female-lead families represent a larger part of the poor population than men. This is a consequence of multiple factors, namely that, still today, women lack some of the opportunities and resources awarded to men, and are oftentimes ill-equipped to face life in the wake of an adverse event.
Gender inequality is extremely harmful to the sustainability agenda and must be overcome in order to ensure lasting results in the process of achieving a sustainable future. Not only does it help create poverty traps, it encourages and promotes violence against women and girls and prevents them from fulfilling their potential. Attaining gender equality is paramount to ensure active participation from all people in global sustainable development, as it would encompass involving women in the political and economic decision-making process at national, regional and global levels. Gender equality would also secure access to health care, education and work for all women and girls, thus providing them with tools, resources and support nets to encourage their advancement.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes attaining gender equality in their global goals as follows:
GLOBAL GOAL 5: ACHIEVE GENDER EQUALITY AND EMPOWER ALL WOMEN AND GIRLS
- End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
- Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
- Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and genital mutilation.
- Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate.
- Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.
- Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.
Achieving gender equality would mean the end of all the atrocities currently being committed against women and girls. Moreover, and contrary to widespread misconceptions, gender equality also entails benefits for men. The effects of toxic masculinity would start to subside, for example, and ongoing biases in favor or against a gender or another would vanish. Of course, gender equality is not achieved overnight, but this process can be significantly sped up if all countries implement the general guidelines provided by the UN in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They are cited below:
- Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws.
- Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women.
- Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels.
Gender equality is a fundamental human right and it is also a need, not only of women and girls, but society in general. Acknowledging that every life is of equal value and that both women and men can make important contributions for the advancement of the human race is not only what’s morally right, but a matter of common sense. Ostracizing a group of people can only be detrimental for the global goal of living sustainably before 2030, as it prevents those people from fulfilling their potential and improving their lives and the lives of those around them. Moreover, it deprives the global community from the insight today’s forcefully silenced voices could provide.