Women and SDGs
Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 1: End poverty in all its forms
everywhere The end of poverty can only be achieved with the end of
gender-based discrimination. All over the world, gender inequality makes
and keeps women poor, depriving them of basic rights and opportunities
World Bank/Shehzad Noorani
She walks for hours to fetch water and
toils in drought-prone fields to feed her family...
She left her country with the promise of
a good job only to find herself forced into sex work...
She picks up the pieces after a cyclone
destroys her makeshift home and small business...
She is the provider, farmer, teacher,
doctor, entrepreneur, minister, leader, mother -
contributing every day to her household, society and the
Women and girls make up more than half
the world's population - and they are on the frontlines -
often more deeply impacted than men and boys by poverty,
climate change, food insecurity, lack of healthcare, and
global economic crises. Their contributions and leadership
are central to finding a solution.
With the new global 2030 roadmap and
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approved by UN Member
States on 25 September 2015, we will over the next few weeks
take a look at how women are affected by each of the 17
proposed SDGs, as well as how women and girls can - and will
- be key to achieving each of these goals.
Women make significant contributions every day from bringing an
income to her household as an employed wage earner, to creating jobs as
an entrepreneur, to taking care of her family and elders.
However, a woman farmer, for instance, may not be able to make her
crops thrive like a man can because she doesn't have the same access to
seeds, credit, technology and extension services. She is very unlikely
to own her land-only 20 per cent of landowners globally are women. If
she hopes to someday inherit family property, the law may deprive her of
an equal share, or social convention may simply favour her male
Poverty comes with many risks; discrimination leaves women less
resilient to these. In an economic downturn, poor women are less likely
to have savings and abilities to make up for lost income. Poor girls are
more than twice as likely to marry in childhood as those who are
wealthy. They then face potentially life-threatening risks from early
pregnancy, and often lost hopes for an education and a better income.
Women have a right to equal access to all avenues to end poverty,
from social protection safety nets to use of the latest technology.
Fully realizing that right will be key to achieving the first SDG.
UN Women acts to end poverty through programmes to provide training,
loans and practical skills to empower poor women economically, give them
a voice, strengthen social services and increase awareness of women's
rights. They also work to ensure women's access to basic services,
control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural
resources, appropriate new technology and financial services.
All-women worksites in India
Date: 14 October 2013
Hari Bai is a woman from the Scheduled Caste community, from the
lowest rung of India's caste system and traditionally excluded in
society. Having also recently learned how to read, she fought against
all odds to become a 'mate' or a worksite supervisor under the world's
largest pay-for-work programme, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural
Employment Act (MGNREGA).
Now, she basks in the newfound respect she has gained from having
attained a supervisory position.
Hari Bai, a 35-year-old member of the Scheduled Caste
community and first-time mate at MNREGA, supervises work
at Village Satavasa in Lalitpur, Uttar Pradesh.
Women/Gaganjit Singh Chandok
"When I started going for the training, my husband was quite
suspicious. But when he came to know about the benefits and its positive
impact on our lives, he became more understanding," says Hari Bai, who
now works in Satavasa village of Lalitpur District, in the state of
The Government of India's MGNREGA programme guarantees at least 100
days of employment a year for every adult member of a rural household
willing to do unskilled manual work for the minimum wage of 120 Indian
rupees (USD 2.00) per day. UN Women provides technical support for the
popular programme, which mandates that one-third of those employed be
women, and ensures their equal pay.
However, in many Indian states women's participation in the programme
is still low. In Uttar Pradesh, it is a mere 19 per cent (nationally,
female participation is 56 per cent).
To spur women's participation and to ensure accountability for the
most marginalized, in 69 villages across five districts of Uttar Pradesh
and four districts of Andhra Pradesh, UN Women's Fund for Gender
Equality supported a project called the Dalit Women's Livelihood
Accountability Initiative (DWLAI) that reached over 30,000 women. This
project was implemented in partnership with the non-profit Gender at
Work, and its local partner NGOs - Sahajani Shiksha Kendra (SSK),
Vanangana, Parmarth and Lok Samiti. The project raised awareness about
the MGNREGA programme, organized women into collectives, trained women
to be worksite supervisors and run all-women worksites.
Results are already evident. In Chitrakoot district of Uttar Pradesh,
a pond was constructed entirely by women, a majority of them from
Scheduled castes. The project also aimed to help the women, many of whom
were treated as "bonded labourers" by powerful feudal landlords, to
assert and demand their right to employment.
"The pond was managed and built entirely by women, with 100 women
working together in constructing it, and the supervision of the work
done by women mates," said Chunni Lal Verma, head of the Basila village
council, in Chitrakoot.
The efforts initially faced opposition from the male-dominated
community. "Village people started saying that women who only know how
to run a kitchen will never be able to use heavy tools used for
digging," says Kamala of Manikpur block in Chitrakoot. "We took this as
The project developed a module to train women 'mates' across all the
project sites in Uttar Pradesh. The trainings provided information about
MGNREGA, complemented by adult literacy programmes.
As a result of the training, which included information about
workers' rights under the programme, newly trained women workers and
other women across Uttar Pradesh started demanding work under the
government scheme. A 2012 evaluation commissioned by UN Women showed a
steep five-fold increase in the number of Scheduled Caste women
accessing work under the Act in 102 selected villages between 2009 and
2011. The numbers increased from 2,811 Scheduled Caste women in 2009 to
14,174 in 2011, due to the intervention.
In Lalitpur, Hari Bai and 9,000 other Scheduled Caste women were also
able to open bank accounts to control their wages. The women went on to
ask for worksite entitlements, such as drinking water, work shelters and
first-aid boxes. And they demand accountability if wages are delayed,
for the Act guarantees full wage payment within 15 days of work.
"If the Pradhan [head of the village council] doesn't give money to
the labourers on time, we tell him that we will come to his house and
put pressure on him every day until the payment is made," says Paan Bai,
from Mahroni block in Lalitpur, smiling at her newfound assertiveness.
UN Women continues to scale-up the efforts and results that emerged
from this FGE project, to other states in India, and is working closely
with governments and partners for women's empowerment through MGNREGA.