United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG 5) has declared that we must ‘achieve gender equality and empower women and girls’.
Gender equality is not only a ‘fundamental right’ but the UN recognises it as a necessary foundation for a sustainable, peaceful and flourishing world. By promoting gender equality through equal access to education, decent work, political representation, health care and economic processes a ‘domino effect’ of sustainable development can be created.
There has been considerable progress regarding gender equality in certain spheres of society, for example, child marriage and female genital mutilation rates have declined by 30% in the past decade. Despite this, gender disparity continues to deprive women and girls across the globe of their basic rights and access to opportunities. For instance, over 15 million girls under the age of 18 are still the victims of child marriage.
UN gathered statistics demonstrate the shocking pervasiveness of gender inequality within the developed and developing world. Almost fifty countries still do not have adequate laws protecting women against domestic violence. One in five women and girls under the age of 50 will have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner within the last 12 months. Just 57% of women married or in a union freely make their own decisions about sexual relations, contraceptive use and health care demonstrating how gender inequality exists in every aspect of female life.
Furthermore, SDG5 emphasises the importance of ensuring that women have equal access to and effectively participate in leadership positions. Historically, women have been banned from or have had limited access to positions of leadership both within the home and in wider society. For example, globally, in 2018, women held just 24.2% of parliamentary seats. In addition, within the private sector women hold just a third of senior and middle management positions. It is therefore clear that there is still considerable work to be done if we are going to eliminate all forms of discrimination for all women and girls everywhere.
In order to ensure developments under SDG5 are sustainable, it is vital to recognise that empowering women requires action at both the local and global levels. This can be done by addressing structural imbalances such as regressive social norms as well as developing progressive legal frameworks that seek to promote gender equality.
Our work seeks to recognise and promote this notion. Our work, across the world, is based upon the premise that local women should lead the way when escaping poverty through education by making informed decisions about their personal development. This empowerment is closely connected to ending all forms of discrimination, violence and harmful practices women and girls face. WONDER seeks to arm women with the skill-set and means with which they create transformative change, navigating their own paths and become leaders in their own lives.
Our Red:GLOW project is a notable example of this work. WONDER works with seven like-minded European partners to promotive citizenship and active participation. Red:GLOW helps over 1,000 disadvantaged women build their skillsets through a series of leadership and volunteering programmes. In addition, women in Red:GLOW receive a mentor, someone who helps guide and supports them through their journeys, a woman they can aspire to be similar to.
Increased leadership positions are a key component of enabling women to take control of their own futures and the futures of their families and communities. Empowering women is crucial for facilitating the long-term breakdown of the cycle of poverty many women and their families are trapped in. By seeking to end gender inequality, WONDER works to strengthen the resilience and self-efficacy of the women and girls we work with.
Blog post by Ilenia Romani