Alula Berhe Kidani
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women released a discussion paper setting out arguments for gender equality as an accelerator for progress across all the SDGs. The paper recommends adopting a holistic approach to gender equality focused on transforming structures that create and perpetuate gender equalities, in order to support integrated achievement of the SDGs.
The paper titled, ‘Gender Equality as an Accelerator for Achieving the SDGs,’ finds that gender equality can be a “catalytic policy intervention” that triggers positive multiplier effects across the development spectrum. Author Esuna Dugarova presents evidence on the critical role of gender equality in reducing poverty (SDG 1), attaining food security (SDG 2), enhancing human capital through health (SDG 3) and education (SDG 4), addressing climate impacts and strengthening resilience to disasters (SDG 13), and ensuring more peaceful and inclusive societies (SDG 16).
A greater proportion of women in positions of political authority is associated with lower CO2 emissions.
The paper also shares evidence on the role of gender equality in promoting economic growth and labor productivity (SDG 8). As an example, global and regional analysis by UNDP has found that increasing female educational attainment and labor force participation by 2030 will reduce the share of the global population living in extreme poverty by 0.5 percentage points and contribute 3.6% to global gross domestic product (GDP). In South Asia and the Middle East, such investments are predicted to increase GDP by 4.4% and 4.1%, respectively. The paper shares numerous examples of how investments in gender equality have positive effects across SDG targets.
On climate change and natural resource management, the paper describes evidence on how promoting gender equality can contribute to addressing climate impacts and protecting planetary ecosystems (SDGs 14 and 15). For example, a greater proportion of women in positions of political authority is associated with fewer carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a higher possibility of ratification of environmental treaties, more land protection and higher recycling rates. Similarly, a UNDP study of 61 countries has found that a greater per capita number of women’s and environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is correlated with decreased deforestation levels. The paper shares similar findings on women’s roles in improved forest sustainability, effective water management and reduced illegal overharvesting.
To capitalize on the potential of gender equality to accelerate SDG progress, the author recommends action in four interdependent and mutually reinforcing areas. First, the paper calls for ensuring equal rights, opportunities and outcomes for both women and men. Second, it underscores the importance of enhancing women’s agencies, capabilities and participation in decision-making processes. Third, the paper urges eliminating gender-based violence and discrimination. Fourth, it recommends transforming power relations at all levels of society.
Other recommendations focus on: institutionalizing a gender-responsive approach to financing; investing in implementing national plans and policies for gender equality and women’s empowerment, including reducing and redistributing unpaid care and domestic work and promoting decent work; strengthening accountability mechanisms for fulfilling existing commitments; and designing and collecting high-quality, reliable and timely gender-disaggregated data.