By Dr. Gyan Pathak
A new UN report has warned that the world would take another 300 years to achieve gender equality if the countries perform to continue as usual. It is too long a time for which generations of girls and women must not be put to peril. Moreover, the pathetic situation under which they weep and wail, silently and unheard, is most likely to continue without urgent investment in them.
It is despite the fact that achieving full gender equality is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The new report published by UN Women and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) has also revealed 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, that in gender equality, by the 2030 deadline.
There are many dimensions to the gender equality which needs a comprehensive understanding for better strategic planning and implementation to achieve the goal in shortest possible time, preferably by the 2030 deadline. We are already too late and there are numerous issues at hand.
Let us take as an example the warning, the report has served. The report has warned that at the current rate of progress, it will take up to 286 years to close gaps in legal protection and remove discriminatory laws. It goes without saying that the legal framework needs immediate review to find out and remove injustices to girls and women which have been traditionally part of our socio-legal systems.
As for the equal opportunity to girls and women in the social, economic, and political activities, the situation is equally difficult for them to overcome in the near future. For example, the report has warned that it would take another 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, with girls from the poorest rural households and in conflict-affected areas expected to suffer the most.
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, the report has warned.
The invasion of Ukraine in February, and the ongoing war there, 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.
Many street food vendors lost their only source of income when COVID-19 lockdowns shuttered towns and cities, the report has warned, in which girls and women were worst sufferers.
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.
When we compare this data with India, the situation is far worse here. Women’s participation ratio in the job market had reduced to only 16 per cent during the pandemic year 2020 and is still below 20 per cent according to some estimates. India would obviously need to do much more than it has been doing now. Modi government’s performance in girl’s and women’s education, health, and social and legal protection etc are also dismal and frustrating which need to be urgently rectified.
India must take note of the report that 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, the report has said.
Each additional year of schooling can increase a girl’s future earnings by up to 20 per cent, according to the report, with further impacts on poverty reduction, better maternal health, lower child mortality, greater HIV prevention and reduced violence against women.
“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 also 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.
“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. (IPA Service)