New Agenda to Promote Gender Equality, Women's Empowerment

April 22, 2016
By Liu BohongEditor: Rong Chen
New Agenda to Promote Gender Equality, Women's Empowerment
Liu Bohong, Professor at China Women's University [Women of China English Monthly]


The United Nations (UN) General Assembly formally adopted Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development on September 25, 2015. More than 150 world leaders attended the assembly. After three years of deliberation among hundreds of millions of people, the global sustainable development framework finally came into being. The adoption of the framework coincides with the 70th anniversary of the UN's founding. It is gratifying that adoption of the framework opens a new chapter for people worldwide to strive for a prosperous, equal, free, dignified and peaceful world.

Sustainable Development Goals

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted by the UN in September 2000, includes eight goals, 18 targets and 48 technical indicators. Compared with the MDGs, the agenda has more content, broader vision and clearer targets. The agenda is universal and applies to all countries.

The agenda is composed of 17 goals and 169 targets, and its content contains five categories: People, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership. The agenda aims to wipe out poverty, promote life with dignity and leave no one behind. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the agenda "shines a light on a future of promise and opportunity."

Adoption of the agenda suggests people, for the first time, have reached the consensus that achieving economic development at the cost of damaging the environment and social justice is not real, all-round and sustainable development. As Wu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General, says, "For our future generations, and for the earth, we must take the road to sustainable development."

The goals of the agenda include eliminating poverty, getting rid of hunger, protecting the right to education, promoting gender equality, encouraging employment, tackling climate change, protecting life below water and life on land, reducing violence and strengthening partnerships. The goals are of great significance to the development of human beings.

Role of Women's Movement

This year is of great significance. It marks the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, and it also marks the 20-year review of the Beijing Declaration and the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), commonly referred to as the Beijing+20 campaign. Knowing the MDGs were to expire at year's end, the UN adopted the Post-2015 Development Agenda in September.

Leaders of the international women's movement realize that fully implementing BPFA will be challenging, and that it will be nearly impossible to add new goals or targets to BPFA during the Beijing+20 campaign. As such, they have made efforts to ensure the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development address noteworthy issues, which had been identified during implementation of BPFA and the MDGs.

They require that gender equality be a stand-alone goal, and that gender equality be embodied in the overall agenda and the other goals that are mentioned in the agenda. During the 58th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, in 2014, leaders of the women's movement urged the UN to make the achievement of gender equality a stand-alone goal in UN's future agendas. That appeal was echoed by the UN General Assembly when it formally adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development on September 25, 2015. In the agenda, the fifth goal is "achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls."

The Post-2015 Development Agenda includes issues that have been mentioned in the BPFA and the MDGs, but which have yet to be solved. The issues are: Promoting women's participation in politics and economic development, eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls and guaranteeing women and girls' right to an education.

The Post-2015 Development Agenda also addresses issues related to gender inequality. For example, women and girls are still discriminated against in the world; women have to take care of both family and career, thus they cannot have equal participation in social and economic development; women's sexual health and reproductive health are damaged, and women's reproductive rights are violated; and it is difficult for women to enjoy equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources.

New Goals

The fifth goal, "achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls," is a stand-alone goal. The fifth goal has 10 targets:

Ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls everywhere;

Eliminating all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation;

Eliminating all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation;

Recognizing and valuing unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate;

Ensuring women's full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life;

Ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences;

Undertaking reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws;

Building and upgrading education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all;

Enhancing the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women; and

Adopting and strengthening sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development embodies global women's will and determination to promote gender equality. The new goals and indicators are literally higher, more explicit and more specific requirements for both governments and the international community as they work together to promote gender equality and women's empowerment.
However, formulating goals is not equivalent to accomplishing goals, and taking action is harder than making promises. Through consistent efforts and concrete measures, such as fundraising, cooperating, monitoring and appraising, let us make dreams come true, and let us strive for a better world, where people live better lives.

(Source: Women of China English Monthly November 2015 Issue)

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