To realize the Sustainable Development Goals, focus on rural women

Women in nearly two-thirds of the world's countries are more likely to report food insecurity than men, the flagship UN Women report found. Ollivier Girard, CIFOR
15 October 2018

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal call to action to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. They’ve been hailed as “a victory for gender equality” by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women.

But implementation remains a challenge, and the global agenda might not yet be touching girls’ and women’s lives in meaningful ways, said Bimbika Sijapati Basnett of the Center for International Forestry Reserch (CIFOR), in her response to a report released last month by UN Women on gender and the SDGs. Below are some examples from the report of why rural women’s issues must be placed front and center if these goals are to be reached by 2030.

SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation: In 2015, 2.1 billion people lacked access to safely managed drinking water services.
When water is not available in the home – as is the case in many rural areas in developing countries – women and girls are most often tasked with collecting it. This takes a significant amount of time and limits their engagement in other activities such as paid work and education.

SDG 7: Affordable and clean energy: Rural women are more likely to rely on solid fuels such as wood, crop wastes, charcoal, coal and dung for household cooking. Used on open fires or in leaky stoves, this creates high levels of household air pollution. It also forces women and girls to spend ample time collecting fuel.

SDG 13: Climate action: Most rural women in developing countries depend on natural resources for food and income. But climate change is already making an impact and reducing agricultural yields in many places. It’s projected, for example, that by 2050, climate change will have reduced wheat production by 49 percent in South Asia and by 36 percent in sub-Saharan Africa. Also, because of unequal access to land, credit, markets, inputs such as fertilizers, information and technology, rural women are disadvantaged when it comes to adopting climate change adaptation and mitigation techniques.

SDG 15: Life on Land: Many more rural women than men depend on common resources such as forests to meet household needs for food and fuel, due to inequalities in land tenure and access. As a result, they are particularly affected by forest loss, which amounted to 3.3 million hectares worldwide per year between 2010 and 2015 alone.

(Source: Turning promises into action: Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, UN Women, 2018)

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