It will take 3 centuries to close gender gap completely, warns UN

Several global crises, backlash against women’s reproductive rights may worsen gender disparities

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 07 September 2022
Gender equality is a foundation for achieving all Sustainable Development Goals. Photo: iStock __

It will take close to 300 years to achieve full gender equality at the current rate of progress, according to a report by United Nations women. If current trends continue, more women and girls will live in extreme poverty by 2030 in sub-Saharan Africa than today.

Global challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, violent conflict, climate change and the backlash against women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights further exacerbate gender disparities, showed Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): The Gender Snapshot 2022. 

The report was launched September 7, 2022 by UN Women, which works for gender equality and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA). It highlighted that SDG 5, or achieving gender equality, will not be met by 2030 at the current pace of progress.    

Read more: Gender gaps in food: 150 million more women went hungry than men in 2021

This is a tipping point for women’s rights and gender equality as we approach the half-way mark to 2030, said UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous. 

Bahous said:

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.

Gender equality is a foundation for achieving all SDGs and it should be at the heart of building back better, said Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, assistant secretary-general for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs of UN DESA.

Legal systems that do not ban violence against women, do not protect women’s rights in marriage and family, do not provide equal pay and benefits at work and do not guarantee their equal rights to own and control land may continue to exist for generations to come without swift action. 

Women’s rights in marriage and family include denying women their right to pass on their nationality to their children and to inherit. 

The report estimates that it will take up to 286 years to close gaps in legal protection and remove discriminatory laws and 140 years for women to be represented equally in positions of power and leadership in the workplace at the current rate of progress.

It will also take at least 40 years to achieve equal representation in national parliaments. 

Progress must be 17 times faster than last decade’s progress of the last decade, to eradicate child marriage by 2030. 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,” said Spatolisano. 

The report also points to a worrisome reversal in the reduction of poverty and rising prices are likely to exacerbate this trend. By the end of 2022, around 383 million women and girls will live in extreme poverty (on less than $1.90 a day) compared to 368 million men and boys.

Read more: Raising legal age of marriage for girls: Change in legislation without education won’t bring gender equality

The invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing war there is further worsening food insecurity and hunger, especially among women and children, limiting supplies of wheat, fertilizer and fuel and propelling inflation. 

In 2021, about 38 per cent of female-headed households in war-affected areas experienced moderate or severe food insecurity, compared to 20 per cent of male-headed households.  

Globally, women lost an estimated USD 800 billion in income in 2020 due to the pandemic. Despite a rebound, their participation in labour markets is projected to be lower in 2022 than it was pre-pandemic (50.8 per cent, compared to 51.8 per cent in 2019).  

More women and girls are now forcibly displaced than ever before: some 44 million women and girls by the end of 2021.

Today, over 1.2 billion women and girls of reproductive age (15-49) live in countries and areas with some restrictions on access to safe abortion.

The report showcases that cooperation, partnerships and investments in the gender equality agenda, including through increased global and national funding, are essential to correct the course and place gender equality back on track. 

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