Four Reasons Why Gender is an Essential Part of Sustainable Development
One of the biggest events in the international gender equality calendar starts on 14 March. The 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will take place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York until 24 March 2016, attended by state representatives, advocates for gender equality and UN representatives from across the world.
The priority theme for this year’s CSW is ‘Women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development.’ Often associated with the environment, the UN has a wider definition for sustainability as calling for: ‘a decent standard of living for everyone today without compromising the needs of future generations.’
Gender equality is an essential element of sustainable and inclusive development. Here are just four of the reasons why:
1. Women are part of the solution
Where women are already playing a crucial role in developing sustainable development solutions, their contributions are often not recognised. For example, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) women comprise around 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries. The percentage is as high as, or even higher than, 80 per cent in some countries in sub- Saharan Africa. This makes women the principle agents of food security and household welfare in rural areas. Yet this highly significant contribution is too often under-estimated or invisible. Women and girls may be vulnerable in many ways due to inequitable social and cultural factors, but they should also be seen as rights-holding citizens, recognised for the agency, skills and experience they can contribute.
There is often a significant gender disparity in decision-making at all levels: from local communities to international governance. For example, women make up just 23 per cent of the world’s MPs. Not only does this gender imbalance result in unrepresentative policies, but it denies women the right to participate and have a political voice.