Achieving full gender equality, one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), could take close to 300 years if the current rate of progress continues, according to a report published on Wednesday by UN Women and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA).
The study reveals how gender disparities are worsening in the face of “cascading” global crises – such as the COVID-19 pandemic, violent conflict, and climate change – coupled with the backlash against women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.
As a result, countries will not meet SDG5 by the 2030 deadline.
‘Reverse this trend’
“This is a tipping point for women’s rights and gender equality as we approach the half-way mark to 2030,” said Sima Bahous, Executive Director at UN Women.
“It is critical that we rally now to invest in women and girls to reclaim and accelerate progress. The data show undeniable regressions in their lives made worse by the global crises – in incomes, safety, education and health. The longer we take to reverse this trend, the more it will cost us all”.
The Gender Snapshot 2022 report showcases how cooperation, partnerships and investments are essential to put the world back on track.
Without swift action, legal systems that do not ban violence against women or protect their rights in marriage and family may continue to exist for generations to come.
The report warns that at the current rate of progress, it will take up to 286 years to close gaps in legal protection and remove discriminatory laws.
Most vulnerable affected
Furthermore, it will take 140 years for women to achieve equal representation in leadership positions in the workplace, and 40 years for the same to happen in national parliaments.
Meanwhile, to eradicate child marriage by 2030, progress will have to be 17 times faster than in the last decade, as girls from the poorest rural households and in conflict-affected areas are expected to suffer the most.
“Cascading global crises are putting the achievement of the SDGs in jeopardy, with the world’s most vulnerable population groups disproportionately impacted, in particular women and girls. Gender equality is a foundation for achieving all SDGs and it should be at the heart of building back better,” said Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, an Assistant Secretary-General at UN DESA.
Extreme poverty rising
The report also highlights a worrisome reversal on poverty reduction, with rising prices set to exacerbate the situation.
By the end of the year, roughly 383 million women and girls will live in extreme poverty, compared to 368 million men and boys. Many more will have insufficient income to meet basic needs such as food, clothing, and adequate shelter in most parts of the world.
If current trends continue, more women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa will live in extreme poverty by 2030 than today, according to the report.
The invasion of Ukraine in February, and the ongoing war are further worsening food insecurity and hunger, especially among women and children. The war has led to limited supplies of wheat, fertilizer and fuel, while propelling inflation.
UN Women/Ploy Phutpheng
Many street food vendors lost their only source of income when COVID-19 lockdowns shuttered towns and cities in Thailand.
The power of education
Other daunting facts from the report reveal that globally, women lost roughly $800 billion in income due to the pandemic. Despite a rebound, women’s participation in the job market is projected to decrease this year to 50.8 per cent, compared to 51.8 per cent in 2021.
The report has been released ahead of the Transforming Education Summit, which will be convened on the margins of the UN General Assembly later this month.
Although not enough by itself, achieving universal girls’ education would help to boost gender equality.
Each additional year of schooling can increase a girl’s future earnings by up to 20 per cent, with further impacts on poverty reduction, better maternal health, lower child mortality, greater HIV prevention and reduced violence against women.