The need to empower women has been long standing. Though times have changed, women are still been discriminated against. The United Nations (UN) initiated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the hope of addressing global challenges and providing a better and more sustainable future for all by 2030. The UN SDG 5 addresses gender inequality and women empowerment, while the SDG 3 addresses maternal health. The UN depends on various countries to act on- and achieve this goal by 2030, but a country cannot be successful without action from its people. Therefore, to fight discrimination against women, it will definitely take a multidisciplinary approach – individual, societal and governmental participation. I came up with 5 facts about the issues that the UN SDG-5 addresses, and ways to empower women as a society.
1. Maternal Mortality
Fact: Every day, approximately 830 women die from preventable complications related to pregnancy and childbirth according to the World Health Organization. About 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.
What Society can do: Support and encourage expectant mothers, especially pregnant teenagers by discouraging the stigmatization and discrimination against this female cohort. Instead of judging a pregnant woman reach out to your pregnant family members to make sure that they are physically and mentally healthy. Encourage expectant to seek antenatal services. If there are no clinics available, work mobilize the community to start one. Be a confidant and support to your pregnant relatives and friend, assuring them of your willingness to be there for them at all times. Encourage discussions about sexual and reproductive health especially among young girls (and boys).
2. Violence Against Women and Girls
Fact: At some point in their lives, about 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner (not including sexual harassment) according to a discovery. Moreover, up to 70 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. Also, another discovery shows that 603 million women live in countries that don’t consider domestic violence a crime.
What society can do: Usually violence against a woman is a very challenging thing to address as our community sees it as “getting into a woman’s personal/marital business.” If you know anyone going through such, please intervene into that personal business and save a life. If you can, literally take them out of that situation (marriage, relationship, etc). Also, any woman going through such should seek help at any available local center or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) if you reside in the US. If you don’t know anybody who has suffered violence, but are interested in making a change, you can support any of the organizations listed under organizations to support at the end of this article.
3. Educating The Girl Child
Fact: Approximately 131 million girls worldwide are out of school and face several barriers to education per Global Partnership for education. “I’ve always believed that when you educate a girl, you empower a nation.” – Queen Rania of Jordan. According to this article, the government of some countries like Sierra Leone restrict pregnant girls from obtaining formal education like any other child.
What society can do: Sponsor a child whose family cannot afford to pay for education. You can also mobilize members of the community to create after-school programs to help children prevail in school and boost their confidence academically. Parents should invest in their children’s education and encourage them to participate in school. The practice of depriving pregnant girls from education should be abolished especially with the help of the community. Teachers should be advocates for their students and the rest of the community should provide support to this cohort of children by condemning discriminatory policies and boosting the confidence of these children.
4. Harmful Traditional Practices – Child Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
Every year, about 15 million girls get married before the age of 18. Another discovery by WHO shows that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in their respective countries, mainly in africa. About 3 million girls, mostly 15 years old, are at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) every year. These practices don’t only put the health of young girls in harm’s way, but they negatively impact the economy. Most child brides end up dropping out of school and this deprives the child a chance of having a good job to help reduce poverty in the economy.
What society can do: Educate yourself about the impact an educated girl can have on the economy as well as the dangers of FGM. Afterward, share this knowledge with your family and friends. Respectfully convince your elders as to why it is important to protect our girls’ bodies and future. Work with your lawmakers to advocate for the girl child’s health and academic rights. Discourage the men in your lives from marrying children as well as the parents that give away their children in marriage. Organize community forums to spark discussions about these issues.
5. Gender discrimination in the workplace
Fact: About 31% of women have reported discrimination when looking for work or at work, while 19% have stated that they are paid less than male colleagues according to this report. Approximately 23% of females aged 16 – 30 have been sexually harassed at work with only 8% reporting it. Most women do not report sexually harassment for fear of losing their job. Moreover, 43% of mothers have experienced maternity discrimination.
What society can do: Be mindful of- and report suspicious actions that may infer gender discrimination in the workplace. Hire and support women in the workplace – ensure that women have full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life. Give women a chance.
Finally, support organizations that help women in crises:
Female Gender Mutilation
- Daughters of Eve – sign petition
- Global Alliance against Female Genital Mutilation
- Desert Flower Foundation