Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to welcome you to this expert group meeting on Sustainable Development Goal 5 - achieve Gender equality and Empower all women and girls - and its interlinkages with other SDGs. Today’s meeting, jointly organized by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), UN-Women, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), is the first in a series of expert group meetings designed to inform the proceedings of the 2022 High-Level Political Forum.
The HLPF is the main United Nations platform for assessing progress toward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This year, the theme will be “Building back better from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while advancing the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. In the context of this theme, several SDGs will have a special focus at the HLPF including SDG 5 on gender equality, as well as SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 14 (Life under water), SDG 15 (Life on land) and SDG 17 (partnerships).
UNDESA – in collaboration with other UN entities and external partners - is undertaking in-depth reviews of each of these SDGs and their interlinkages with other Goals. Today, we are delighted to welcome experts from government, the private sector, academia, and civil society as well as from the UN System to discuss policies, programmes, and practices to support an equal, resilient, and sustainable recovery from COVID-19 – a recovery that accelerates progress on gender equality.
SDG 5 was last reviewed at the HLPF five years ago in 2017. Since then, some progress has been made in advancing gender equality; legal reforms have helped improve women’s rights, more girls are attending school, and fewer child marriages are taking place. However, discriminatory laws and gender norms continue to hold women back from enjoying equal rights and opportunities.
The pandemic has disproportionately impacted women and girls pushing back against hard earned gains and exacerbating persistent barriers. Women with children at home spent approximately 31 hours per week on childcare in 2020 – 5 hours more than before the pandemic. Twelve million women experienced disruptions in birth control during the pandemic, resulting in 1.4 million unwanted pregnancies. Women’s employment in 2020 fell by 4.2 per cent globally compared with 3 per cent for men. Rates of violence against women also increased, with emergency hotlines in many countries experiencing a much higher volume of calls. School shutdowns put girls at risk of staying out of school. Early estimates suggest that 10 million additional girls are at risk of child marriage by 2030 due to COVID-19.
The loss of employment and livelihoods, increased school dropout rates, increased gender-based violence, and the disproportionate burden of unpaid care work rob women and girls of their time, safety, and opportunities. Disruptions to health and social services have undermined access to sexual and reproductive health services, as well as cut lifelines for survivors of violence.
These negative impacts are compounded for women and girls who are marginalized based on multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination based on their race, ethnicity, age, income, geography, disability, or other characteristics. Women migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers faced particularly high risks during the pandemic.
At the same time, women are underrepresented at all levels of political leadership and decision-making. Globally, women made up about 70% of frontline workers, including health workers and first responders. Despite this, women held only 24% of seats on COVID-19 taskforces. Achieving equitable systems of decision-making will be impossible until women have an equal seat at the table. This is particularly important as we face the global climate and environmental crisis.
Gender-responsive planning and budgeting is essential to ensuring that the next crisis doesn’t further unravel progress on gender equality. Furthermore, women’s leadership in the fields of climate resilience, natural resource protection, and prevention of biodiversity loss will build towards a more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive future.
The HLPF this July provides a unique opportunity to advance informed decision-making at a time of unprecedented challenges and to forge global solidarity and multilateral cooperation. Your recommendations on promising areas for empowering women and girls and driving transformative change in SDG implementation help guide Member States and the UN system in navigating pathways toward a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive future.
I thank you for your valuable contributions and wish you a successful meeting.