World far from achieving gender equality — SDG Gender Index

BY: Rosemary Ardayfio
Melinda Gates
Melinda Gates

Results for 129 countries measured by a new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Gender Index show that the world is far from achieving gender equality, with 1.4 billion girls and women living in countries that get a “very poor” failing grade on gender equality.

The SDG Gender Index, released by Equal Measures 2030, was launched at the Women Deliver 2019 Conference underway in Vancouver, Canada.

The index, covering 14 of the 17 SDGs, measures countries on 51 issues ranging from health, gender-based violence, climate change, decent work and others.

The global average score of the 129 countries—which represents 95 per cent of the world’s girls and women— is 65.7 out of 100 (“poor” in the index scoring system).

No country is the world’s best performer across all goals or all issues.

Gender equality

Overall, the world is furthest behind on gender equality issues related to public finance and better gender data (SDG 17), climate change (SDG 13), gender equality in industry and innovation (SDG 9) and the stand-alone ‘gender equality’ goal (SDG 5).

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Denmark tops the index, followed closely by Finland, Sweden, Norway and The Netherlands.

The countries with the lowest scores in the index – Niger, Yemen, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad – have all faced conflict and fragility in recent years.

“With just 11 years to go, our index finds that not a single one of the 129 countries is fully transforming its laws, policies or public budget decisions on the scale needed to reach gender equality by 2030.

We are failing to deliver on the promises of gender equality for literally billions of girls and women,” said Alison Holder, Director of Equal Measures 2030.

Wake-up call

“This report should serve as a wake-up call to the world.

We won’t meet the SDGs with 40 per cent of girls and women living in countries that are failing on gender equality,” said Melinda Gates, co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

She observed, however, that the SDG Gender Index also showed that progress was possible.

“Many countries with the most limited resources are making huge strides in removing the barriers for girls and women across economies, politics and society, demonstrating that when it comes to gender equality, governments shouldn’t have excuses for inaction,” she added.

“The SDG Gender Index will help ensure that Africa's girls and women are counted and accounted for,” said the Executive Director of the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), Memory Kachambwa.

Plan International’s report

Released alongside the index, a new report from Plan International has revealed that a vast majority of girls worldwide want to take leadership positions in the workplace, politics and wider society, yet more than nine out of 10 believe as women leaders, they will suffer widespread discrimination and sexual harassment.

Close to 10,000 girls and young women between 15 and 24 years were surveyed in 19 countries as part of the research. The report: Taking the Lead, is jointly produced with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

Of all girls and young women surveyed, 76 per cent said they aspired to be a leader and over 60 per cent said they felt confident of their abilities to lead.

At the same time, 94 per cent believed that being a leader involved being treated unfairly as compared to men and 93 per cent felt female leaders experienced unwanted physical contact.

This perception was stronger amongst young women who had some experience of leadership than those who had none.

“The findings show that despite having the aspirations to lead, girls and young women have extremely negative perceptions of what being a female leader involves,” said Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Plan International.

That, she said, was a major deterrent, adding that “it’s not surprising that only 24 per cent of parliamentarians worldwide are women”.