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Girls & Women

Global Goal 5: Gender equality

What is Global Goal 5?

Global Goal 5 is a little easier to understand right off the bat than some others: Gender equality. Making the world an equal place for all genders. Seems simple enough. But what does this really mean? What exactly does a world with NO gender inequality look like and how does society get there when gender inequality is embedded deep within cultures.

This is where it starts to get a little more complicated. But I’m going to break it down because achieving gender equality is not as overwhelming a task as you might think.

Gender equality means creating a world where girls and women have equal access to education, the job market, respect, and the ability to live freely.

Global Goal 5 seeks a world where health care for women is a priority, girls and women are seen and treated as equals by everyone in the world. It’s developing a world where NO girl ever feels at a disadvantage for being born female or feels shame for having a menstrual cycle.  And a world where girls DO run the world!

via GIPHY

What progress has been made?

Progress on gender inequality has come a long way, especially in the last few decades.

In the last 20 years, international agreements at the United Nations incorporating gender equality have proven to be powerful tools in promoting gender equality and ending gender discrimination. More than 95 percent of international agreements since 1995 have included aspects of gender equality.

In Turkey a constitutional provision passed in 2001 that made the age of marriage equal for boys and girls.

Women’s life expectancy rose from 69 years old to 73 years old and maternal mortality rates decreased by 40 percent in over 70 countries in the last decade.

Laws are changing. It’s going to be Global Goal 5’s mission to enforce these laws and find ways to end child marriage, and cultural practices that discriminate against girls and women at a deeper social level. But gender equality will be accomplished because there’s so much to lose otherwise.

Is Global Goal 5 plausible? Can it happen?

I’d say there’s a good chance this goal will happen in the next fifteen years. Considering that countries investing in girls and women receive such enormous returns on investment (as my colleague Nicki points in this article) and long lasting benefits for society, this is Global Goal with a lot of power.

The issue of girls’ and women’s empowerment is BIG today and the reason why is because it’s an investment that works.

Girls and women deserve equality, and pursuing this benefits societies, economies, promotes peace, and can end poverty. That’s not to say it’s an easy task exactly, but because so much progress has been made, and it’s a lucrative investment, this goal forward will be driven forward.

When a girl is born, there are gaps in equality at every stage of life. These gaps are getting smaller, but there’s still action to take at every level.

So who can you look to for guidance? Who are the leaders?

Countries paving the path toward gender equality include Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Australia and the US, which make up the top five on the UNDP’s Gender Inequality Index.

And it seems Nordic countries really take the lead on a lot of Global Goals.

But, why are these countries leaders on gender equality?

As you might have learned from Global Goal 10: reducing inequalities, Iceland joined Canada in closing the gender gap in education. And Iceland closed 86 percent of overall gender gap.

So yeah… that kind of makes them a leader on gender equality.

Norway is leading on closing the income inequality gender gap. Women are paid 17 percent less than men. In some professions in the US, the gap is as pay difference is as high as 30 percent.

Norway and Iceland both have high participation from women in the workplace, politics, education and overall social engagement, which contributes greatly to gender equality.

Over 40 percent of positions in parliament are held by women in Sweden, Finland and Cuba.

And many other countries have elected female leaders. Check out this timeline of countries since 1960 that have combined to elect over 70 female prime ministers and presidents..

What tactics will be used to accomplish this goal?

Promoting access to health care. Women may live longer than men, but sadly girls die at younger ages in poor countries. Girls and women need proper access to quality health care so that healthy women can give birth to healthy babies. Then, as these children grow up they need access to equal education.

Providing education for the 60 million girls who are not in school.

Also, get girls into STEM fields. Less than one in TWENTY girls considers a career in science, technology, engineering, and math compared to one out of five boys. Supporting girls in STEM fields help close the gap in incomes between genders too. STEM careers are some of the highest paid jobs.

global goal 5 gender equality-b1.jpgImage: Flickr: stavos

Once girls and women have equal access and rights to education, let’s make the workplace equal. How? Here’s a crazy idea: what if companies had to reveal the difference in pay between men and women for the same position? Do you think that would spark some changes in promoting equal pay?

There are only 4 countries where women earn more than men. And sadly, children have a negative impact on pay for women. Of these countries where women earn more than men, the measurements are in terms of “childless” women. Once women have children, the gender income gap reverses and skyrockets.

Access to daycare and equal paid paternal and maternal leave can stop this.

The world needs equal pay for women because women are shown to invest 90 percent of income towards families compared to the 35 percent men give back. This means that communities are uplifted and society’s benefits are shared.

What can you do?

Invest in girls education to close the gap between genders in education. Let’s get the 65 million girls currently out of school an education!

Tell EVERYONE you know to invest in the girls and women and recognize the importance of Global Goal 5.

Support campaigns like #NotThere, No Ceiling, #GirlRising, Girl Up, Girl Effect and countless others and make every day Women’s Equality Day on Twitter.

This means social awareness programs that let communities in countries like India, Bangladesh, Uganda, Malawi, Afghanistan, and others that have high rates of gender inequality.

There’s even programs directed toward educating boys and men on the importance of gender equality. What about boys & men? is the name of one educating males in communities with high gender inequality to empower women.

Make sure girls everywhere have access to education, justice and health through organizations like CHIME FOR CHANGE.

Make sure girls and women everywhere have equal and affordable access to health care. Especially maternal health care.  

Banish period taboos. And provide every girl and women with the proper tools to manage periods. Don’t let women risk life-threatening infection from lack of access to sanitary materials or shame over their period.

Support girls and women entering STEM fields and other male dominated areas in education and the labor market.

Why is Goal 5 my personal favorite?

It’s not because I want to make more money...but yes I’m ALL for closing the income gap between genders. It’s because of the economics behind it. Girls and women will change the world and just like Beyoncé I hope more women will run the world in the future. I believe in the power of investing in girls and women and that’s what makes this my favorite goal.


Together we can close all gender gaps and achieve gender equality.


Go to TAKE ACTION NOW and tweet to raise your voice for girls education!