We cannot wait another 118 years to achieve economic gender equality.
Young people often come to my office seeking advice about gender issues, and some complain that all too often we still need to make the business case and argue ‘why’ gender equality matters, instead of discussing ‘how’ to make the change.
We have evidence to show that despite substantial progress, issues remain, and accelerated efforts are needed to achieve gender equality. So is the evidence insufficient, or are people simply not aware of it? Ignorance is definitely a big part of the answer.
At the beginning of a new era with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will guide global development efforts for the next 15 years, let’s take a closer look at SDG 5, the new stand-alone gender goal. SDG 5 is dedicated to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, covering the remaining gender issues that the predecessor of the SDGs—the Millennium Development Goals—failed to address.
Why are these issues so relevant to Asia and the Pacific?
Let’s look at the labor market for example. Women in Asia are on average 70% less likely than men to be in the labor force, and earn on average 30-40% less than men. In some countries, there still exist legal prescriptions as to what jobs a woman cannot do, with many of these jobs usually paying higher.
Our region appears to be one of the worst affected in the world when it comes to domestic violence. Almost 2 in every 5 Asian women report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence committed by an intimate partner. In some Pacific countries, the prevalence of domestic violence against women and girls is over 60%. Doesn’t that tell us enough to want to act now? For those who want to know more about how to tackle violence against women and girls in different sectors, I wrote a few blogs last year.
South Asia has the highest prevalence of child marriage in the world with approximately 1 in 2 girls married off before the age of 18. Is that none of our business? Coby Persin shows us in one of his recent YouTube videos how people at New York City’s Times Square know this isn’t right.
In developing countries, women typically spend three hours or more per day than men on unpaid care and domestic work. The disproportionate burden of unpaid care work limits women’s education and employment opportunities. In Pakistan, women spend ten times more time on such work than men do; in India, almost 7 times more. In the Philippines, women provide 84% of the total household time allocated to childcare. No wonder the latest video of Ariel’s ‘Share the Load’ campaign is going viral.
Women continue to be underrepresented in parliament, central and local governments, and in the corporate sector. In our region, they represent 18% of members of parliament, and on average account for 6% of seats on corporate boards. Thumbs up to the ten male executives of major corporations for their commitment to gender parity at Davos!
Two unwanted pregnancies occur every second worldwide. In 2015, 5.2 million births took place among adolescent girls in Asia and the Pacific, with the highest rates of teenage pregnancy occurring in South Asia.
According to the World Economic Forum, at the current pace of progress it will take another 118 years to achieve economic gender equality. This would mean that my daughter and probably 5 more generations would still experience discrimination. We cannot wait that long. The global theme of this year International Women's Day is ‘Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality.’ Let's act now to realize SDG 5 by 2030, when my daughter will be 21 years old.
So still wondering why we want you to ‘Hi 5’ for and support SDG 5? To the young women and men out there, start using the tag #Hi5forSDG5 and visit our Facebook page. In my next blog, I’ll move on to start debating the ‘how.' Happy Women’s Day!