At the Gender Equality and Women’s Leadership for Sustainable World conference last year, the President of the 73rd session at the United Nations General Assembly, Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, made a striking remark on women’s involvement in achieving global sustainable development.
In her comments, she said, “We have no hope of realising the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development without the full participation and leadership of women. This is an obvious point to make, but it is, sadly, one that we cannot repeat enough”. This statement is not only accurate because of its attribution to the UN General Assembly but because the world has continued to show that it is not fully prepared to support the advancement of women in driving realisation of the SDGs and also as change agents leading some of the world’s most important industries.
From an international standpoint, the 2019 SDG Gender Index’s global findings show that “The world is furthest behind on gender equality issues especially to public finance and better gender data (SDG 17), climate change (SDG 13), gender equality in industry and innovation (SDG 9) and very worryingly, the standalone ‘gender equality’ goal (SDG 5).” The index goes on to reveal that even Africa’s biggest nation, Nigeria, with a score of 46.1 per cent was among the 10 lowest scoring countries by an overall index score. However, while this looks like a slow step in the process, we see a pattern in sight for women to play active roles in these sustainability areas.
For us as women, we make up a huge part of the world’s overall population and have in the last few years began to benefit from the economic and social progress that the growing battle for women empowerment have continued to trigger. Looking at the MDG Monitor, it observed that if and when we fulfil the gender equality SDG 5 goal by 2030, poverty and hunger cases will reduce significantly and by the end of the century, more of the world’s third countries would have become fully developed.
During the Rio Declaration in 1992 which emphasized on how the full participation of women is essential for sustainable development, gender equality champions, the UN Women continues to use each year’s International Women’s Day to advocate for the advancement and success for women globally. This year’s #EachForEqual theme takes an in-depth view into each one of us as individuals and why gender equality must remain utmost priority.
In some of the work we do at Standard Chartered, we have an unwavering pursuit to uplift the everyday woman to improve livelihood because we trust in the multiplier effects a woman brings to both her family and communities. We started the Future makers program for example, where we are using education as a tool to tackle inequality and promote greater economic inclusion. With this program, we aim to have raised US$50 million by 2023 to enable us empower the next generation of women to learn, earn and grow through training modules that focuses on employability, education and entrepreneurship.
In areas such as gender equality (SDG 5), reduced inequalities (SDG 10), quality education (SDG 4) and decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), we have put in place a combination of sports and life skills training called The Goal, for over 200,000 girls in Nigeria. This training is geared towards building confidence and knowledge for women to attain leadership positions and lead them in the right path. The Goal project started in 2011 with only 4 schools in Lagos and has since expanded to 21 schools in Lagos, Oyo and Abuja. with five training modules such as, ‘Be Money Savvy’, ‘Be Yourself’, ‘Be Healthy’, ‘Be Empowered’, and ‘Be Independent’.
Due to the financial responsibility associated with the ‘Be Independent’ module, this was taught only to girls between the ages of 18 – 24 years who were old enough to understand entrepreneurship and employability which also forms a part of the three core pillars we believe women can be empowered at Standard Chartered.
Also, in June 2019, we launched the Women- in-Tech program aimed at providing support to women entrepreneurs and help them in raising seed-funding. We identified that women entrepreneurs sometimes experience difficulties in accessing resources and we decided that the Women-in-Tech program would through its activities support gender representation and diversity in technology and ICT generally to ensure readiness and provide a gateway to a pool of resources.
When we look at this topic holistically, to achieve sustainable development, women require a supportive environment that has no obstruction to equal contribution, women being recognized as policy decision makers and the introduction of initiatives that can drive productivity for women.
We see this era as a time for organisations and government to continue to concern themselves with women empowerment in the advancement of SDGs. Like the Head of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo said some time ago, “If you don’t know where to start with SDGs, start with women and girls, everything else will fall into place”.