How are countries performing on the gender equality SDG? A report card

The 2019 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Gender Index has found that no country is on track to achieve gender equality by 2030 as planned. The report says that despite promising to meet gender equality, countries’ progress towards the SDG gender equality goal is “poor”.

“The 2019 SDG Gender Index finds that, across the 129 countries studied, no country has fully achieved the promise of gender equality envisioned in the ambitious 2030 Agenda”, says the report.

In the past 11 year, the index found that the global average score on gender equality is “poor” or “barely passing” with 65.7 out of 100.

“This means that nearly 40 percent of the world’s girls and women—1.4 billion—live in countries that are failing on gender equality (scores of 59 or less out of 100) and another 1.4 billion live in countries that “barely pass” (scores of 60–69 out of 100)”, said the 2019 SDG Gender Index report.

This also means that no one country outperforms the rest on all indicators of gender equality— every country is lacking in some sphere.

The report finds that the world displays most gender inequality in public finance, data collection, climate change, and industry and innovation, specifically.

What is the SDG Gender Index?

The SDG Gender Index is part of the Equal Measure 2030 initiative that helps governments with data collection and policy implementation. India is one of the core partners who helped with the index’s research.

The SDG Gender Index covers all 17 official sustainable development goals—poverty, nutrition, health, education, gender equality, sanitation, energy, economic growth, industry, inequality, climate, peace, and partnerships— with a focus on women.

The SDG Gender Index evaluates 129 countries with indicators that are “gender-specific and those that are not, but nonetheless have a disproportionate effect on girls and women”.

What does the SDG Gender Index say about India?

The Asia region is in the middle bracket of all countries studied. However, it is the second worst region for women in positions of power in the government, says the report. Still, the Asia and Pacific regions have strong commitments to disaster management.

India ranks 95th of all countries on the list with a score of 56.2 out of 100. Its neighbours, Sri Lanka and China, rank higher at 80 and 74, with a score of 62.1 and 64.7, respectively.

The report finds that access to education for girls and women is particularly challenging in India. Only 40% of women aged between 20 and 24 are enrolled in secondary education in the country. But India has been increasing access through learning programmes and skills workshops, said the report.

Pakistan and Bangladesh have the lowest level of gender equality in the world, says the report.

SDG Index finds gender inequality around the globe

The report found that even developed countries are lax in tackling gender-based violence, pay gaps, and workplace discrimination. Denmark has the highest index score with 89.3, but still does not qualify as “excellent”.

Finland, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Slovenia, Germany, Canada, Ireland and Australia are among the top 10 countries. The report says that high-income countries like these are more likely to have gender equality than low-income countries.

The women in the top 10 countries, and Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Thailand, and Uruguay feel satisfied with modern family planning methods, such as regular and emergency contraception, and fertility awareness.

However, high scores on various indicators are from a mixed bag of countries, including low- and middle-income nations. Low-income countries also displayed more transparency in government budgets. Moreover, Greece, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Rwanda, Slovenia, Georgia, and Vietnam, also outperform countries with higher income.

Similarly, higher income countries like US, South Korea, Russia, Iraq, Botswana, Turkey, Malaysia, and Switzerland display low levels of gender equality.

The 10 countries with the lowest scores are Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Yemen, Congo, DR Congo, and Chad. These countries were also considered “fragile” by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2018.

Some low-income countries score well on women’s physical wellbeing such as safety while walking alone at night. Rwanda has the highest score in this regard. Kenya also has one of the highest rates of women availing of digital banking services, and Colombo scores better than the US on social assistance for women.

Women’s rights— the way forward

The past few years have seen hugely popular, women’s rights movements spring up all over the world, from #MeToo to women’s marches.

In India, as well, the #MeToo movement has taken strong footing after Raya Sarkar ignited the sentiment with LOSHA— list of sexual harassers in academic— naming predatory men in academic circles. The movement has now grown with women outing men from the entertainment industry, politics, and media as harassers and abusers on social media.

In April, hundreds of women participated in a women’s march under the ‘Women March 4 Change’ and demanding equality. In 20 states and major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Bengaluru, women marched against discrimination and violence and called for greater representation in parliament.

Most recently, legal bodies, lawyers, and activists have also been protesting how allegations of sexual assault and harassment against the chief justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, have been handled. Critics have called for an independent inquiry into the matter.

To tackle gender inequality, the 2019 SDG gender index report recommends greater investment in programmes—political and financial—that seek to uplift women. This includes research and data collection on the problems at hand so officials can best draft evidence-based policies. Governments also need to prioritise women empowerment programmes and create education and employment opportunities, and better financial and healthcare literacy among their populations.

Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius

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