Gender inequality is one of the global problems that is faced in all geographies of the world and in almost every sphere of life. Although the issue is becoming increasingly visible and many actions are being taken towards equality, it took the world a long and a challenging journey to reach where it is, and it still has a long way to go to reach where it wants to be. Many of this journey involves the commitments, policy documents and actions either taken or initiated by United Nations (UN). However, even the UN did not occupy itself with gender equality from the beginning. The four women leaders who were there when the UN was founded were also the ones who canalized the organization to adopt a gender sensitive approach. But developing a common understanding and agenda took 50 years; from 1945 when the UN’s Charter conference was convened in San Francisco to 1995 when the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA) came into being at the Fourth World Conference on Women. This document that involved 38 declarations and a comprehensive framework of understanding and actions was ground-breaking for gender equality.
As the UN’s methods became more systematic, the theme of gender equality continued to find itself a place within these methods. In September 2000 in New York, the world leaders agreed on a set of goals named as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Promote gender equality and empower women was one of the 8 MDGs that were committed to achieve by 2015. After 15 years of progress achieved under MDGs,in 2012 they were decided to be replaced by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janerio. Gender equality remained to be a part of the UN agenda within this new set of goals as well by being the goal number 5 - achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls - among 17 goals. In addition, other goals related to gender issues were also set directly under the sub-targets in 10 of the other 16 goals.
Even though the gender equality is a topic of priority, the world does not perform well in SDG 5 according to the analyses. Equal Measures 2030, a civil society and public sector partnership that connects data and action on gender equality, conducted a comprehensive research in 129 countries covering 14 of the 17 SDGs from a gender equality perspective . Gender-related indicators were determined for each of the 14 SDGs and then countries were assessed according to these indicators. The results unfortunately do not promise brilliant prospects. Some of the key findings indicate the following: the global average score is 65.7 which is considered as “poor”; no country is scored “excellent” which is a score of 90 and above, with highest scoring country -Denmark- receiving 89.3; even the top scoring countries have “poor” or “very poor” scores on at least one of the 14 goals.
However, we should not take this as a sign to give up on working towards gender equality but rather let it be a driving force to boost the efforts. International institutions try to pave the way for actions and cooperation and the public and private sector actors should seize these opportunities. In July 2019, UN Secretary General’s Roadmap for Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was published stating the objectives and actions to be taken that address to gender equality as well . Another example of the efforts by the international institutions is the Sustainable Development Bond launched in November 2019 by International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) to finance the efforts made to achieve SDG 5. The director of the sole investor firm to this $5 million bond said that they see women’s empowerment as an “exceptionally powerful” engine of economic growth . French Development Agency (Agence Française de Développement - AFD) together with Industrial Development Bank of Turkey (TSKB), on the other hand, is providing themed loan programmes to companies who compromise to employ and empower women. A particular example to the programme is Koton - a Turkish garment firm. The firm makes a push to raise awareness on gender equality within its supply chain through a project conducted by Escarus. Such initiatives are needed to be engaged more ambitiously by other stakeholders if the 2030 agenda is aimed to be achieved.
On a final note, gender equality is crucial for all spheres of life and if the course of actions remain unchanged, the 2030 Agenda cannot be achieved. Therefore, all parties from both public and private sector need to ask what they can do now for 2030. We all need to step up our actions for gender equality and work together in order to create a world where the gender equality is achieved, and all girls and women are being empowered.