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Will we "achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls" in 10 years?

Niamh Callinan

International Women’s Day is an imperative celebration of the achievements of women globally. The day is a call for gender parity and promotes the ongoing work towards achieving gender equality.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is a framework that aims to reach global gender equality. The emphasis in Goal 5 (broken into six main parts) is to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”.

An ambitious goal, set within a timeframe of completion by 2030.

This International Women’s Day, the question necessary to ask is, will we have achieved these goals in 10 years’ time?

Target 5.1: End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.

The first target encapsulates the sentiment of Article 2 and 7 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—ensuring all members of society have the same rights and access regardless of gender.

To completely end all discrimination within 10 years would require an overhaul of all current structural norms globally—this is unfortunately unfeasible.

However, that does not diminish the effective mechanisms currently in place; The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979) and UN Women continuously work towards identifying and advocating against gender discrimination.

To create significant structural changes, effective measures are necessary—introducing processes of legal reforms, political and financial restructures and social strategies within counties currently lagging to achieve these targets, is one such measure.

Target 5.1 is the most difficult target to achieve in 10 years’ time—while structural norms may remain, there will be substantial progress made to eliminate discrimination, a notable point of celebration in achieving gender parity.

Target 5.2: Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls

Target 5.2 addresses an endemic problem stemming from structural norms of discrimination—the purpose is to eliminate all forms of violence against women in public and private spheres.

In 2019, 106 countries reported that around 18 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence; in developing countries it remains around 24 per cent.

This marginal drop from 2018 indicates that mechanisms of education and legal reform have worked; within 10 years there is a possibility to achieve this target.

However, the issue of what occurs in the private sphere is hard to measure, and therefore regulate.

Focus needs to change in addressing this issue, by building sustainable systems of education and advocacy to eliminate all violence against women.

Target 5.3: Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and FGM

Recently, many countries, including Australia, have made a historical ruling that all forms of FGM are illegal; countries are recognising, reducing and outlawing child, early and forced marriages.

The prevalence of this practice is on a downward trajectory, the risk particularly in Southeast Asia decreasing by 25 per cent between 2013 and 2018 and recent date demonstrating that FGM has declined by a quarter between 2000 and 2018 globally.

The rates at which these practices are declining indicates that this target is well underway to being achieved—ongoing reforms legally and socially need to proceed to ensure this target is reached.

Target 5.4: Recognise and value unpaid care and domestic work

Target 5.4 is complex.

Data depicts inadequate progress globally in recognising and valuing unpaid care and domestic work. Extensive barriers hinder the progress of this target, including economic preferences, priorities, socio-cultural expectations and political agendas.

The feasibility of achieving this target in 10 years is quite low, with ongoing barriers inhibiting the mechanisms that will enable it to be attained.

There are a number of measures that can contribute to fulfilling target 5.4, including micro-loans, local grassroot initiatives of knowledge and resource sharing, including upskilling and educating citizens, community based domestic and care work support and providing women with recognition for their unpaid work.

These are vital to achieving this target—perhaps not in 10 years’ time—but certainly in the foreseeable future.

Target 5.5: Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership

Target 5.5 is by virtue of what it encompasses the most publicised and easily recognisable.

There remain substantial improvements to be made; currently only 23.4 per cent of all national parliamentarians are women and 10-20 per cent of women make up top managerial positions.

Two main approaches are necessary; increased investment to build environments fostering female leadership at all levels, and increased mentorship programs to establish networks of industry-based support.

It’s unlikely that women will gain equal opportunities in leadership within 10 years, but it only takes one woman to change and create new precedencies.

Target 5.6: Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights

Currently, minimal data is available that measures this target, but it requires multiple, easily implementable methods to be achieved.

Free, accessible sexual and reproductive services, resources and education are verified to be good ways of ensuring women’s universal access to sexual and reproductive rights. This can be achieved by 2030, beginning with education and the establishment of more accessible services and resources.

Everything considered, there remain numerous limitations and targets seem unlikely to be achieved by 2030. However, through gradual progression on each target, progress on others will also follow.

With many people working to achieve these goals in numerous different ways—we can believe that in 10 years’ time, progress will be made to achieve gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls.

Niamh Callinan has recently commenced a Masters of International Law at the University of Sydney

This article was commissioned for YAIA's International Women's Day series.


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