Equal rights are fundamental to sustainable development

23May 2020
Editor
The Guardian
Equal rights are fundamental to sustainable development

​​​​​​​Gender equality is a belief that both men and women should receive equal treatment. People should not be discriminated against because of their gender.

Gender equality, also known as sexual equality or equality of the sexes, is the state of equal ease of access to resources and opportunities regardless of gender, including economic participation and decision-making; and the state of valuing different behaviors, aspirations and needs equally, regardless of gender.

Gender equality is the goal, while gender neutrality and gender equity are practices and ways of thinking that help in achieving the goal. Gender parity, which is used to measure gender balance in a given situation, can aid in achieving gender equality but is not the goal in and of itself. Gender equality is more than equal representation, it is strongly tied to women's rights, and often requires policy changes. As of 2017, the global movement for gender equality has not incorporated the proposition of genders besides women and men, or gender identities outside of the gender binary.

UNICEF says gender equality "means that women and men, and girls and boys, enjoy the same rights, resources, opportunities and protections. It does not require that girls and boys, or women and men, be the same, or that they be treated exactly alike."[1][a]

On a global scale, achieving gender equality also requires eliminating harmful practices against women and girls, including sex trafficking, femicide, wartime sexual violence, and other oppression tactics. UNFPA stated that, "despite many international agreements affirming their human rights, women are still much more likely than men to be poor and illiterate. They have less access to property ownership, credit, training and employment. They are far less likely than men to be politically active and far more likely to be victims of domestic violence."  

As of 2017, gender equality is the fifth of seventeen sustainable development goals of the United Nations. Gender inequality is measured annually by the United Nations Development Programme's Human Development reports.

The board of directors of the African Development Bank Group has approved a new Gender Equality Trust Fund (GETF) aimed at pushing forward gender equality and women's empowerment across the continent.

Funded by donors, the GETF will support the delivery and scale-up of the Bank's Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) programme and promote gender transformative lending and non-lending operations. It is the first thematic fund on gender in the Bank Group's history. The Fund will be established for an initial period of 10 years.

AFAWA is the Bank's flagship pan-African initiative which aims to bridge the $42 billion financing gap facing women in Africa. Through AFAWA, the Bank is spearheading a major push to unlock women's entrepreneurial capacity and economic participation for maximum development impact.

Also on Tuesday 31 March, the Board of Directors of the Bank approved a Risk-Sharing Mechanism – an innovative financial instrument to de-risk women-empowered businesses, enhance their profile with banks and support them to grow and thrive as entrepreneurs. Anchor investors in the GETF are the governments of France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

The Africa Guarantee Fund (AGF) has been chosen as the first implementing partner to facilitate access to finance for women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). AGF is a pan-African entity that provides financial institutions with guarantees and other financial products to support SMEs in Africa. AGF has a network spread out over 42 African countries and 150-plus financial institutions.