Women and girls represent half of the world’s population and therefore also half of its potential. But today, gender inequality persists everywhere and stagnates progress on social and environmental goals. Women continue to be underrepresented at all levels of political leadership. Across the globe, women and girls perform a disproportionate share of unpaid domestic work. Inequalities faced by girls can begin right at birth and follow them all their lives.
International commitments to advance gender equality have brought about improvements in some areas: child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) have declined in recent years, and women’s representation in the political arena is higher than ever before. But the promise of a world in which every woman and girl enjoys full gender equality, and where all legal, social, and economic barriers to their empowerment have been removed, remains unfulfilled. In fact, that goal is even more distant than before, since women and girls have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOAL 5
United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goal 5 is focused on achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls globally, while emphasizing the recognition that gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world.
Goal 5 includes 9 Targets:
- 5.1: End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
- 5.2: 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.
- 5.3: Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
- 5.4: Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public spheres, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate.
- 5.5: Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic, and public life.
- 5.6: Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences.
- 5.7: 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.
- 5.8: Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women.
- 5.9: 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.
LEAVE NO WOMAN OR GIRL BEHIND
Each year, the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) convenes to follow-up on and review the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs. In preparation for 2022’s review, United Nations Women undertook an assessment of progress on the goals to date. The findings are sobering. Progress towards achieving the gender equality goals has been slow and insufficient. The distance to equal is long and time is short. The world is currently not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030.
Of the 18 indicators tracked under SDG 5, only one is close to the target: the proportion of seats held by women in local governments. In three areas critical to women’s empowerment – equality between women and men in time spent on unpaid care and domestic work, decision making regarding sexual and reproductive health, and having comprehensive systems in place to track and make public allocations for gender equality – the world is far or very far from meeting the targets. For example:
- An estimated 435 million women and girls are living in extreme poverty.
- Women hold only 38% of managerial positions in the workplace globally.
- Women spend 3.2x as many hours as men on unpaid care work (31 hours/week).
- Globally, women hold only ¼ of seats in national parliaments.
THE INTERSECTION OF SDG 5 AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Are women and men impacted by climate change in the same way?
Research shows that women are disproportionately affected by the consequences of climate change. For example, when a crisis occurs (e.g., such as a natural disaster which is more severe and more frequent due to climate change) people’s lives change in an instant. Death, injury, displacement, and the destruction of infrastructure and institutions impact entire communities as a result. Crises impact women, girls, boys, and men of all ages differently. Their needs and interests differ, as do their resources, capacities, and coping strategies. Women are often the first responders to crises, as they play a central role in the survival and resilience of families and communities.
Women are more likely to be living in poverty, and as a result are less likely to own land and resources to protect themselves in a post-disaster situation. Women also typically have less control over production and income, are less educated, have less access to institutional support and information, as well as less freedom of association, and fewer positions in decision-making bodies. Women are more constrained by their responsibilities for the aged and children, and during and after a climate disaster they are more likely to die and are more exposed to violence. With the environment rapidly changing, women are made to walk longer distances to fetch resources and may as a result face increased security issues including harassment and sexual violence. Increasing workloads may also result in families withdrawing daughters from schools to help at home, reducing their future opportunities. In addition to all these, crop failure because of sporadic rainfall due to climate change may result in the selective malnourishment or starvation of girls and women, especially in cultures where men are used to eating before women and girls. Women also often face the most negative economic implications of crop failure as they usually have fewer economic resources to fall back on in times of crisis.
Is climate governance gendered?
Female activists, scientists and researchers are working hard to solve issues but often without the same platforms that men have to share their knowledge and skills. The voices of women from marginalized communities, including youth and indigenous women, are mostly absent, even as they have contributed little to the climate crisis and are more vulnerable to its effects. From the local to the global level, women’s leadership and political participation are restricted. Women are underrepresented as voters, as well as in leading positions, whether in elected office, the civil service, the private sector, or academia. This occurs despite their proven abilities as leaders and agents of change, and their right to participate equally in democratic governance. In 2011, the UN General Assembly Resolution on Women’s Political Participation noted: “Women in every part of the world continue to be largely marginalized from the political sphere, often as a result of discriminatory laws, practices, attitudes and gender stereotypes, low levels of education, lack of access to health care, and the disproportionate effect of poverty on women.” Women hold critical local knowledge that can enhance climate adaptations and assist the development of new technologies to address climate change in areas related to energy, water, food, security, agriculture and fisheries, biodiversity services, health, and disaster risk management. When it comes to adapting to and mitigating the risks of climate change, women are a key part of the solution.
ACCELERATING PROGRESS ON GOAL 5
What can be done to ensure political and social action on climate change does not reinforce gender inequality? What shifts in gender relations are needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change?
Feminist researchers have been pushing for ‘gender mainstreaming,’ which refers to ensuring that gender perspectives and attention to the goal of gender equality are central to all activities in climate governance. Examples of gender mainstreaming methodologies for climate action are listed below.
Political Methodologies for SDG 5:
- Training for women political candidates to help build their capacities.
- Offer voter and civic education and sensitize campaigns on gender equality.
- Backing gender equality advocates in calling on political parties, governments, and others to do their part in empowering women.
- Encouraging young men and women to engage in advocacy around making gender equality measures central to public policymaking.
- Advocate for legislative and constitutional reforms to ensure women’s fair access to political spheres.
Economic Methodologies for SDG 5:
- Promoting women’s ability to secure decent jobs, accumulate assets, and influence institutions and public policies determining growth and development.
- Advocacy to measure women’s unpaid care work, and to take action so women and men can more readily combine it with paid employment.
- Close the financing gap for gender-responsive prevention, preparedness, and recovery by promoting national and local budget allocations to address gender-specific prevention, preparedness, and recovery, particularly in productive and social infrastructure and service.
- Gender-responsive private sector investment and appropriate financial products, including social protection and insurances, need to be developed and made accessible to all women.
Data Methodologies for SDG 5:
- Strengthen assessments of gender dimensions of disaster risk, particularly in terms of women’s vulnerability, capacity, and exposure to hazards by increasing the engagement of women in disaster risk assessments.
- Develop gender-sensitive data collection instruments and tools that ensure the collection of sex and age disaggregated data.
- Integrate gender analysis and gender equality indicators into programs and projects to identify where specific vulnerabilities to climate change lie, and where opportunities for mitigating and adapting to climate change can be found.
Local Methodologies for SDG 5:
- Strengthen the capacity of women to prevent, prepare for, and recover from disasters in a changing climate by developing and implementing gender-responsive early-warning and early-action systems and by increasing the engagement of women in preparation of local disaster preparedness plans.
- Raise awareness of the causes and consequences of climate change to sensitize women to the dangers of climate change and to the possible requirements/mechanisms of adaptation.
- Training programs on adaptation measures with a specific focus on the needs of women (e.g., alternative cultivation methods and more resistant crops in agriculture, more efficient domestic and agricultural use of available water resources, alternative sources of domestic energy).
CRITICAL AREAS REQUIRING ACTION
1. Ensure our global and local understandings of climate change be reframed to incorporate analyses of gender and particular impacts on women and girls.
2. Ensure that gender be viewed as a critical factor in climate change analysis, policy, and planning.
3. Recognize that a technological/scientific focus alone does not address critical issues facing women and their families. The inclusion of human rights, social justice, and gender frameworks are essential for climate change analysis.
4. Ensure that the development of green technologies provides a unique space for women’s empowerment and involvement.
5. Ensure that women be given equal representation in decision-making bodies and that these bodies address social and community impacts.
6. Ensure that women’s local knowledge be valued and incorporated into climate change action and research.
7. Ensure that all research and policies include gender-disaggregated data and analysis.
8. Ensure that women be viewed not just as victims but as equal partners with men facing and addressing the challenges of climate change.
It is critical that a gender focus be introduced to the global understanding of climate change, not only because of the innate need to introduce a human rights perspective, but also because the weight of evidence suggests that there are differential gendered impacts. Additionally, it is critical because gender mainstreaming will improve the efficiency of actions taken; and because attempts to achieve gender equality are further threatened by climate events.
EnvironFocus is hosting an online webinar event on Thursday, June 16, 2022 from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM EST. This webinar event is an effort to create a platform for a dialogue around feminist frameworks for climate justice: reflecting on core principles, exchanging ideas, sharing strategies, and learning from each other’s analysis, challenges, and questions.
Join us for this educational webinar and live Q&A. Participants get a Certificate of Participation that counts as a Professional Development Credit (PDC) activity!
We look forward to seeing you.
GSDRC Applied Knowledges and Services, Gender and Climate Change, Webpage 2022: https://gsdrc.org/topic-guides/gender/gender-and-climate-change/
UN General Assembly, Resolution 66/130 on Women and Political Participation, 19 December 2011: https://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/66/130
United Nations, Goal 5, Webpage 2022: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/gender-equality/
UN Women, Economic Empowerment, Webpage 2022: https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/economic-empowerment
UN Women, Global Programme for Addressing the Gender Inequality of Risk in a Changing Climate: https://www.unwomen.org/sites/default/files/Headquarters/Attachments/Sections/Library/Publications/2016/FPI%20Brief-GIR_V2.pdf
UN Women, Humanitarian Action, Webpage: 2022: https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/humanitarian-action
UN Women, Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals: The Gender Snapshot 2021: https://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2021/09/progress-on-the-sustainable-development-goals-the-gender-snapshot-2021
UN Women, Women’s Leadership and Political Participation, Webpage 2022: https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/leadership-and-political-participation
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