UN Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality targets the systemic barriers women face and aims to transform cycles of disempowerment into cycles of empowerment. Women are too often denied access to healthcare, education, financial services, housing and employment, or face significant roadblocks to such access. Not only are these services linked to basic human rights, but each is a fundamental building block for autonomy and agency. Though it is a large task, contributions to this goal can reinforce one another from many angles. SDG 5 is further refined by targets that can be more readily translated into actions. These targets highlight the interconnected nature of the goals: For example, strategies to support Gender Equality also promote progress toward SDG 4 (Quality Education) and SDG 8 (Decent Work & Economic Growth). Below are a series of synergies that can come from providing access to products, services and systems that address Gender Equality.

Invest in Access to Telecommunication Services

As more of the world’s communications and business takes place online, those without access to supporting tools risk being left behind.1,2 Currently, some 200 million fewer women are online than men, and women are 21% less likely to own a mobile phone than men.3 With access to the internet, women are better able to obtain education, employment, government services and financial services that are otherwise hard to reach,4 and to increase personal income.5 Women’s online participation also sparks systems-level change, as it enables them to engage in self-expression and engage in key policy and decision-making processes.6 Meanwhile, women are underrepresented as workers and leaders in the technology sector, despite the rapid growth of the field and demand for tech skills.7 Furthermore, jobs in which women are widely employed are at risk of automation, necessitating transition to new fields.8 Greater access to telecommunication services will enable women to develop skills required for the future.

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Invest in Access to Healthcare Services

The healthcare needs of women and girls in many global regions are not being met,9 especially in reproductive health.10 Women lack adequate access to healthcare due to distant service locations, cost and gendered stigmas associated with seeking treatment.11,12 These access issues are compounded by gender norms in regions where women do not have control over household financial resources and are unable to seek care without partner or employer permission.13 When women have access to healthcare, the benefits multiply. For example, women who receive services to avoid unintended pregnancy have greater educational opportunities and are better able to enter and remain in the workforce.14

Invest in Access to Financial Services

Women have less access to financial services than men globally. Women are less likely to hold an account at a financial institution, especially in developing economies, and they save and borrow less than men.16 Women have more difficulty acquiring external business financing;17,18 for example, in the US, women received only 2% of all venture capital in 2017.19 Access to financial services provides a key pathway to women’s empowerment.20, 21

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Invest in Access to Fair Treatment and Equal Opportunity

Despite increasing participation in the workforce, women earn only 77% of what men earn globally and are given fewer advancement opportunities.22 In the workplace, women are given less support, and are more likely to be passed over for important assignments, than men.23 Violence against women is common in all societies and at all income levels, causing more deaths than those linked to civil wars.24 Child marriage, genital mutilation, and assault not only result in serious health problems for a woman,25 but prevent her from attending school or keeping a job, and undermine her ability to make her own decisions. 26

Invest in Access to Education

Promoting access to education empowers women to contribute economically; studies have shown that women’s participation boosts the economic power of a country.27 Access to education also helps break down perceptions of limitations or differences between the capabilities of men and women. 28 Globally, however, nearly 10% of primary school-aged girls are out of school, and only two-thirds of all countries have achieved gender parity in primary education. 29 The disparity is even greater at the secondary and upper-secondary level, where only 45% and 25% of countries, respectively, have reached gender parity.30 Increasing access to education to bridge this gap will open the door for more women to live empowered and prosperous lives.

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Invest Access to CleanWater, Sanitation and Hygiene

Women worldwide spend 200 million hours gathering water.31 Water is also closely connected to hygiene and health, which impact women’s livelihood and economic opportunities. For example, clean water facilitates healthier pregnancies. The evidence shows that birthing rates, complications and child growth are affected by the lack of safe, clean water.32

Invest in Access to Adequate Housing and Living Conditions

Unequal access to housing for women limits opportunities for upward mobility. Quality housing leads to increased physical and financial security, healthier living conditions, and the stability to seek employment.33 However, women in many countries are prevented from owning property, including housing, due to gendered laws and social norms.34 Furthermore, women often have greater difficulty securing housing due to their lower economic standing than men.35 In the US, this challenge is intensified as a shortage of affordable housing for low-income households persists, disproportionately affecting the many households led by single mothers.36,37

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SDG 5: References

1 The Case for the Web, The Web Foundation, 2018;
2 Women & The Web, Intel, 2012;
3 Closing the global gender gap in technology, Global Fund for Women, 2018;
4 Women & The Web, Intel, 2012;
5 Women’s Rights Online Report, The Web Foundation, 2018;
6 Doubling Digital Opportunities, The Broadband Commission, 2013
7 Making Innovation and Technology Work for Women, UN Women, 2017
8 CSC’s Gender and Automation Report, 2018
9 UN Development Programme Goal 3 Targets, 2018
10 “Issues in Reproductive Health,” Fatalla, Mahmoud, UN News Center
11 “…Gender Inequity in Health…”, WHO, 2007
12 Women’s Lives and Challenges: Equality and Empowerment Since 2000, US AID, 2014
13 Key Barriers to Women’s Access to HIV Treatment: A Global Review, UN Women
14 Promoting Gender Equality Through Health, US AID
15 Global Findex Database
16 “Small and medium enterprise finance: new findings, trends and G-20/Global partnership on financial inclusion progress,” International Finance Corporation, 2013
17 International Finance Corporation Enterprise Finance Gap Database
18 Making Innovation and Technology Work for Women, UN Women, 2017
20 Increasing Gender Equality through Financial Inclusion, GIIN
21 “Empowering Women with Micro Finance: Evidence from Bangladesh,” Pitt, M et. al., 2006
22 “Women at Work: Trends 2016,” International Labour Office
23 Gender Discrimination in many forms for today’s working women, Pew Research, 2017
24 “Conflict and Violence Assessment Paper”, Anke Hoeffler and James Fearon, Copenhagen Consensus Center, 2014
25 “Global and regional estimates of violence against women,” WHO
26 “Voice and Agency: Empowering Women and Girls for Shared Prosperity,” World Bank. 2012
27 Why is Gender Equality Important to Economic Development?, GVI, 2018
28 Promoting gender equality in schools, Gender and Education Association
29 Global Education Monitoring Report Gender Review: Meeting Our Commitments to Gender Equality in Education. 2018. UNESCO
30 Ibid
31 Unicef, 2016
32 Unicef, 2016
33 “Level the Field: Gender Inequality in Land Rights,” Habitat for Humanity, 2016
34 Social and Gender Inequalities in Environment and Health, WHO, 2010
35 Gender Lens on Affordable Housing, ICRW, 2016
36 “The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes,” National Low Income Housing Coalition, 2017
37 “Hunger and Poverty in Female-Headed Households,” Bread for the World, 2016