BY STACY M. BROWN
Nearly 40 percent of the world’s girls and women live in countries that are failing on gender equality, according to information compiled by Equal Measures 2030 and its partners.
According to the website for the project, “The 2019 SDG Gender Index measures the state of gender equality aligned to 14 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 129 countries and 51 issues ranging from health, gender-based violence, climate change, decent work and others.
“The 2019 SDG Gender Index provides a snapshot of where the world stands, right now, linked to the vision of gender equality set forth by the 2030 Agenda.”
Average rating: Poor
The index reveals that 1.4 billion girls and women are living in countries that get a “very poor” or failing grade on gender equality.
The SDG Gender Index is considered the most comprehensive tool available to measure the state of gender equality when compared to defined SDGs.
The average score across the 129 countries – which represent 95 percent of the world’s girls and women – is 65.7 out of 100, which translates to a “poor” rating based upon the index’s scoring system).
No single country is the world’s best performer – or even among the world’s top 10 performers – across all goals or all issues.
‘Failing’ on promises
In 2015, world leaders from the participating countries committed to achieve gender equality by 2030 for every girl and every woman when they signed on to the ambitious goals and targets of the SDGs.
“With just 11 years to go, our index finds that not a single one of the 129 countries is fully transforming their laws, policies or public budget decisions on the scale needed to reach gender equality by 2030,” Alison Holder, the director of Equal Measures 2030 said in a news release.
“We are failing to deliver on the promises of gender equality for literally billions of girls and women,” Holder said.
Lowest in Africa
Overall, the world is furthest behind on gender equality issues related to public finance and better gender data (SDG 17), climate change (SDG 13), gender equality in industry and innovation (SDG 9) and – worryingly – the standalone “gender equality’ goal’’ (SDG 5).
Denmark tops the index, followed closely by Finland, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands.
The countries with the lowest scores in the index – Niger, Yemen, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Chad – have all faced conflict and fragility in recent years.
Altogether, 2.8 billion girls and women live in countries that get either a “very poor” (59 and below) or “poor” score (60 – 69) on gender equality.
Just 8 percent of the world’s population of girls and women live in countries that received a “good” gender equality score (80 – 89) and no country achieved an “excellent” overall score of 90 or above.
The 129 countries featured in the index cover five regions – Asia and the Pacific, Europe and North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.
“It’s clear that even the most gender-equal countries need to improve on issues like climate change, gender budgeting and public services, equal representation in powerful positions, gender pay gaps, and gender-based violence,” Holder said.
The index also shows that countries with far fewer resources are still able to tackle key gender inequalities.
Senegal, for example, has a higher percentage of women in parliament (42 percent) than Denmark (37 percent), despite Denmark’s GDP per capita being 56 times higher than that of Senegal.
‘Progress is possible’
Kenya has very high rates of women who use digital banking (75 percent) – higher rates than three quarters of the world’s countries.
Colombia has better coverage of social assistance (81 percent) amongst its poorest people than the United States (65 percent), a higher-income country.
“This report should serve as a wakeup call to the world. We won’t meet the SDGs with 40% of girls and women living in countries that are failing on gender equality,” said Melinda Gates, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“But the SDG Gender Index also shows that progress is possible. Many countries with the most limited resources are making huge strides in removing the barriers for girls and women across economies, politics and society – demonstrating that when it comes to gender equality, governments shouldn’t have excuses for inaction,” Gates said.
Investment and support
Officials said it’s also imperative that the global community provides investment and support to fragile and conflict-affected countries – those with the lowest scores in the Index, such as Yemen, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad.
“As advocates for gender equality in Africa, we can no longer operate on presumptions and approximations,” said Memory Kachambwa, the executive director of the African Women’s Development and Communication Network – or FEMNET.
“Gaps of inequalities must be marked, counted and recorded so that the trail of implementation is clear and decision-makers are held to account. The SDG Gender Index will help to ensure that Africa’s girls and women are counted and accounted for,” Kachambwa said.
While some issues are lagging far behind, dedicated international efforts appear to have made a difference on other issues.
Overall, countries have performed best on issues where coordinated and concerted policy focus and funding has been directed over the past 10-20 years, including on hunger and nutrition (SDG 2), water and sanitation (SDG 6), health (SDG 3) and education (SDG 4).
“With 8,000 decision-makers, advocates, and influencers gathered in Vancouver as part of the Women Deliver Conference, and over 100,000 participating around the world, we have the collective power to drive real progress on these gender equality scores and create real impact for girls and women,” said Katja Iversen, the president and CEO of Women Deliver.