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Providing a framework for nations, communities, organizations, and individuals to do their part in ending discrimination, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity for all by 2030, the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals have played an essential role in shaping our methodology at CAS Trips. 

We endeavor to contribute to the SDGs while highlighting others’ efforts to reach the targets they encompass. By featuring each goal individually, we hope to provide context and inspiration for students, schools, and teachers as they seek meaningful ways to engage with this UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and realize impactful Service Learning projects.

Gender Equality is a goal that corresponds directly with our mission to provide equal access to education and opportunity and will be a primary focus of our upcoming Virtual Conferences. The fifth SDG is to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” 

Despite being a fundamental human right, many women and girls still do not have the opportunity to live their lives free from discrimination. As we work towards a brighter future for all, it is vital to give women equal rights to land and property, sexual and reproductive health, as well as to technology and education. Let’s take a look at where we stand in realizing this essential goal.

Target overview

As outlined in the 2015 agreement, the overarching goal of Gender Equality includes nine specific targets. Among the objectives to be achieved by 2030 are:

  • 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 female 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.

Targets also include ensuring women’s full participation at all levels of decision-making in political, economic, and public life; improving access to sexual and reproductive health and rights; and enhancing the use of enabling technology, mainly information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women.

We are a lot closer to achieving these goals than we were even a few decades ago. Gender equality has been the central focus of many ambitious and wide-reaching initiatives, and we have seen remarkable progress in the past 20 years. Girls are enrolled in school at a much higher rate now compared to 15 years ago, and many regions have reached gender parity in primary education.

In terms of political leadership, representation by women in single or lower houses of national parliament reached 24.9 percent, and women have better access to decision-making positions at the local level, holding 36 percent of elected seats in local deliberative bodies, based on data from 133 countries and areas.

There is still plenty of work to be done, though. Women earn only 77 cents for every dollar that men get for the same work and represent just 13 percent of agriculture landholders. Other troubling statistics include the fact that 35 percent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence, and almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday. Women in low- and middle-income countries are particularly vulnerable.

Impact of COVID-19

Unfortunately, the global pandemic caused by COVID-19 has caused significant setbacks and challenges for women and girls. Directly exposed to the dangers of the virus, women make up three quarters of medical doctors and nursing personnel. They also already spend three times as many hours as men on unpaid care work at home. 

The closure of school and day-care centers has placed a disproportionate burden on women to care for children and oversee their learning at home. Reports from several countries suggest domestic violence against women and children has increased due to the pandemic.  

Looking forward

There are also reasons to be hopeful, though, as the pandemic has created opportunities. Community outreach projects and online Service Learning initiatives have increased in size and scope exponentially over the last year. As many businesses are struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, several organizations in Nepal have been helping women make steady incomes by producing masks. There have also been targeted initiatives to bolster women’s position in STEM fields and various innovative women-led projects that tackle the climate crisis. 

Besides serving as a fantastic source of inspiration, these projects each require support and visibility to continue being feasible. We all need to work together to achieve gender equality. Sexual violence and exploitation, the unequal division of unpaid care and domestic work, and discrimination in public office all remain significant barriers that will require dedicated and well-thought-out action to overcome.

Ending all discrimination against women and girls is vital for a peaceful and sustainable future. Empowering women and girls helps economic growth and leads to the sort of development that our planet and the people living on it need to thrive.