By Ellen Wulfhorst
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 14 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Women are being left behind in the United Nations' ambitious goals to solve hunger, injustice and other global ills, and they remain poorer, sicker and more vulnerable to violence than men, the U.N. women's agency said on Wednesday.
Progress to date for girls and women is patchy and in danger of backsliding in the 15-year agenda set out by the U.N. more than two years ago, according to a report by UN Women.
"Progress for women and girls remains unacceptably slow," said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women's executive director.
"Even where progress has been made, it has been highly uneven," she said in the report's foreword. "Alarmingly, many hard-won gender equality achievements are under threat."
World leaders agreed in September 2015 on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), designed to tackle by 2030 the world's most vexing problems including extreme poverty and inequality.
Described as a blueprint for the future, the 17 SDGs and 169 associated targets address challenges such as hunger, jobs, education, gender equality, sanitation, justice and peace.
The report found 4.4 million more women than men are living on less than $1.90 a day, largely because women perform more than twice as much unpaid care and domestic work as men.
A gender pay gap persists, with women's earnings just 77 percent of what men earn, according to the report. In national parliaments, female representation overall is about 24 percent.
"Gender inequalities manifest themselves in each and every dimension of sustainable development," stated the report, which drew on voluntary national reviews and U.N. information that tracks progress of the non-binding agenda.
One in five women and girls has experienced violence by an intimate partner within the last 12 months, but 49 countries have no laws to protect them from domestic violence, it noted.
In 18 countries, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working, the report found.
The report noted the global goals are intertwined, so a poor girl forced into early marriage was likely to drop out of school, give birth at a young age, suffer health issues during childbirth and experience violence.
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Such a scenario contrasts with the goals to reduce poverty, eliminate early and forced marriage, provide free education and access to reproductive health care, reduce maternal mortality and eliminate violence against girls and women.
Experts have previously warned that progress on the goals is too slow and uneven to meet the 2030 deadline. A U.N. report last July said war and violence were in large part to blame.
(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Robert Carmichael; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)