Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals focuses on Gender Equality. Gender norms and practices continue to hinder opportunities for women and girls worldwide.
The targets under this goal go far deeper than the Millennium Development Goal (MGD) equivalent. In 2000, Goal 3 of the MDGs was to ‘Promote gender equality and empower women’. This was accompanied by one target; ‘Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015.’
This has certainly not been achieved, but there have been some advances. For example the UN reports that in Southern Asia, an average of only 74 girls were enrolled in primary school for every 100 boys in 1990. Today, 103 girls are enrolled for every 100 boys. Nevertheless, gender disparities remain in education and most sectors of society across the world.
The SDGs have therefore included a more diverse set of targets to help concentrate the efforts to address gender inequality in all aspects of life. Targets include ending discrimination, violence (including trafficking and sexual exploitation), harmful practices (such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation) and ensuring full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making. You can read a full list of the targets online.
As a charity that focuses on children, we work to improve gender equality for the girl child. The implications of this work have far reaching impacts in girls’ later lives as increased education, confidence and leadership skills can empower them to have higher aspirations and the confidence and skills to achieve these aspirations in adult life.
Gender Inequalities in India
I want to tell you about our work in India, where networks in six cities are partnering to achieve the long-term vision of creating cities where girls feel safe and valued.
Girls in India can face discrimination even before birth and throughout life. The child sex ratio over the decades reveals a disturbing trend in the age group of 0-6 where the ratio has been constantly declining from 947 in 1991 to 2001 and 914 in 2011. This can be attributed to foeticide, infanticide and other violations. Cultural practices and beliefs that undervalue females cause abuse of girls’ rights. One such practice is the dowry system, which has been outlawed by the government, but which still has a major influence on families who can view girls as an economic burden, making girls vulnerable in a number of ways including in education, child marriage, foeticide and infanticide.
Inequality of girls when they are children can cause problems later in life such as teenage pregnancies, school dropout, trafficking for economic and sexual exploitation, heightened poverty and malnutrition. The protection of girls evidently needs immediate attention and action in India.
Action to changing the situation for girls
Viva’s six networks in Bangalore, Delhi, Dehradun, Hyderabad, Patna and Ranchi have identified a need for a change in local attitudes to girls’ rights and value to ensure that they are safe, empowered and supported to have positive aspirations and opportunities in the future.
We believe that positively valuing girls is a prerequisite for changes in gender disparity. As such we run awareness-raising campaigns alongside more practical programmes.
One interactive strategy for raising awareness in India of the need for gender equality is a Community Albums initiative. Girls will be taught how to create, film and edit media pieces that raise awareness about some of the issues they face as girls in India. The content should then be shared with other networks and on social media. Alongside this, a painting competition for 6,000 school children across the six cities is being planned around the theme of valuing and respecting girls.
The biggest challenge for many teenage girls is when their parents are making decisions about them continuing education or getting married. We are working with parents to help them think through some of the issues their daughters face and the importance of education for their future development and opportunities.
In addition to raising awareness, a number of programmes have been established to develop opportunities for the girls themselves. One such programme is Dare to be Different. This provides mentoring to improve self-esteem and make teenagers aware of inequalities to help them make wise life choices. As a follow on to this, we are working to establish Girls Advocacy Groups in which 180 girls who have attended Dare to be Different will form advocacy groups facilitated by the mentors. Girls in these groups will then develop a strategy to share what they have learnt with their peers.
This is just a brief insight into some programmes running in India which are working to improve gender equality. Ultimately, this will contribute to the achievement of Goal 5 of the SDGs. We are supporting similar initiatives in many countries across the world.
If you have read this far, you must be interested in this topic! Keep a look out for our next ‘Life’ magazine which will be published in November, on the theme of improving equality and opportunities for the Girl Child. This will also be the focus of our Christmas Appeal – more details to follow.
This blog is part of a series for #GlobalGoals week. You can read other articles from this series here.