Source: Small Island Developing States
October 2018: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and UN Women have released a publication examining gender equality and the SDGs in Asia and the Pacific. The report establishes a baseline for governments and policymakers to monitor and accelerate progress towards gender equality commitments in the SDGs.
In June 2016, the ADB and UN Women signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to strengthen their cooperation and partnership to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in Asia and the Pacific. The baseline report reflects the high-level commitment of both organizations to support regional cooperation and national efforts to accelerate progress towards gender equality and gender-responsive SDG implementation.
The publication titled, ‘Gender Equality and the Sustainable Development Goals in Asia and the Pacific: Baseline and pathways for transformative change by 2030,’ argues that gender equality should be addressed both in its own right and as a catalyst of progress across all the SDGs. According to the report, inequalities for women and girls “remain stark” across the region on a broad range of indicators: the region has high levels of violence against women and harmful practices; women have poor access to quality sexual and reproductive health services; there are low levels of women in decision-making; a disproportionate share of women engage in vulnerable work; and women bear an unequal share of unpaid care work.
The report focuses on four policy areas, which the authors say highlight the potential of gender equality to catalyze change across the SDGs. On realizing sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), the report emphasizes the synergies and interlinkages between realizing these rights and achieving other SDGs. As an illustration, fewer unplanned pregnancies, greater family savings and productivity could improve household living standards (SDG 1), nutrition (SDG 2), maternal and child health (SGD 3), and school attendance (SDG 4), all of which could potentially catalyze greater benefits for communities and the economy.
On recognizing, reducing and redistributing unpaid care and domestic work, the report highlights how redistributing women’s disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work can unleash their economic potential and enhance other development outcomes, including increased time for women to participate in education (SDG 4), politics and leadership (SDG 5), engage in decent work and economic opportunities (SDG 8) and engage in self-care and leisure activities. Unpaid care and domestic work are a significant challenge for women in Asia-Pacific, according to the report, which finds that over 20% of women in the region identify work-family balance as a key challenge to participation in the labor force. In Bangladesh and Pakistan, 83% and 73% of women say responsibility for domestic work is the primary reason they do not engage in paid work. The report also highlights how demographic changes, such as people living longer, increases the demand for care, underscoring the importance of investing in accessible, affordable and quality services for child, disability and elderly care.
On eliminating violence against women and girls, the authors explain that addressing this would increase women’s income (SDG 1), opportunities to complete education (SDG 4) and participation in paid employment (SDG 8). Some of the highest rates of violence globally are in the Pacific, according to the report, which recommends tackling entrenched attitudes and social norms around gender roles.
On the fourth policy area, empowering women to build climate resilience and reduce disaster risks, the report states that women’s mortality rates in major disasters in the region are much higher than men’s, citing examples from Indonesia and the Solomon Islands. The report finds that women and girls are especially dependent on climate-sensitive natural resources for their livelihoods (SDG 1), are over-represented among food-insecure populations (SDG 2), have less capacity to cope with the adverse climate impacts on water quality and availability (SDG 6) and on coastal and marine resources (SDG 14), including as a result of their lack of access and control over land and other productive resources (SDG 5). Despite these disadvantages, the report emphasizes that women can be important agents of change and play a key role in mitigating and adapting to climate change. The report recommends: more robust data and evidence for better planning, monitoring and implementation of climate action; empowerment of women as key actors in tackling climate change, such as through involvement in sustainable land and ecosystem management and development of early warning systems; and integration of gender perspectives into climate finance.
The report also outlines the data availability for gender-related SDG indicators used in the report, noting that that only 26% are available for more than two-thirds of the countries or territories in Asia-Pacific, and 41% of indicators have no relevant regional data. Further, only three of the 14 official indicators for SDG 5 (gender equality) are classified as ‘Tier 1,’ meaning that data is regularly produced by countries with regional methodologies, and regional data is only available for one of these indicators. The report concludes that “significant investment is needed to monitor gender equality in the SDGs.” The authors call for “heightened urgency” to improve production and use of gender statistics to ensure “evidence-based SDG localization.”
The report concludes with key recommendations to advance a gender-responsive approach to SDG monitoring and implementation, such as: removing discrimination from legal frameworks and promoting change in social norms; promoting gender-responsive institutions and localization to mainstream and prioritize gender equality across all policy sectors; ensuring women’s active and equal participation, representation and leadership at all levels; and increasing financing and investment, including by making gender a priority in domestic resource mobilization. [Publication: Gender Equality and the SDGs in Asia and the Pacific: Baseline and pathways for Transformative Change by 2030]