In the 2022 Gatekeepers report tracking the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) released on Tuesday, September 13, Melinda French Gates, the co-author, says that the world will not reach gender equality until at least 2108, according to available data.
Published for the sixth time, this annual report by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, co-authored by its co-chairs, Melinda French Gates and Bill Gates, shows that nearly every indicator of the SDGs is off track at the halfway point for achieving them by 2030.
Under its title “The Future of Progress,” the report notes the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, wars in Ukraine and Yemen, ongoing climate and food crises, and macro-economic headwinds on global ambitions to improve and save millions of lives by 2030.
In French Gates’s essay under the tittle “Gender equality depends on women having power, not just “empowerment”,” she says that gender equality is falling further and further out of reach because the world still hasn’t focused enough on gender equality, and when it does, it treats symptoms, not the cause.
“If you dig beneath the ‘years to gender equality’ metric, you’ll see that economic inequality is one of those root causes. The World Bank reported that the difference in expected lifetime earnings between women and men amounted to $172.3 trillion globally even before the pandemic–twice the size of the world’s annual gross domestic product,” French Gates said.
She also said that blaming Covid-19 alone would be a cop-out.
“We have to ask harder questions: Why do gender-neutral events like pandemics have gendered effects? And why, after decades of high-profile efforts to improve the lives of women and girls, is equality still generations out of reach?” French Gates said.
Having money and spending it
French Gates added that while efforts to bridge the lifetime earnings between women and men gap have been centred on “women’s economic empowerment,” a shorthand for providing women with jobs or cash, and are proven ways to lift measures of economic equality, true economic power continues to elude millions of women.
“So we’ve got to keep asking questions: Once women have this money, can they actually spend it? Or do their husbands hold that power? When a woman secures a job, can she actually work and care for her children? Or is she set up to fail?
“These questions illustrate the difference between theory and reality. Because when we create policies to change economic indicators, we might not be changing actual lives. We can’t just talk about empowering women without making sure they are actually gaining power in their families and communities,” French Gates said.
She goes on to suggest solutions to the challenges there are, which include the provision of digital tools with support, such as digital financial literacy training, and investing in child care infrastructure at scale, among others.
“True equality depends not only on a woman’s ability to access a livelihood, but also on her ability to control it fully. It means not just putting food on a kitchen table, but also being able to make decisions for her family around that table. It means not just benefiting from a government policy, but designing those policies. It means not just empowerment, but real, lived power,” she added.
French Gates also noted that when it comes to the future of progress, not just on the global goals related to gender equality but on those on good health, quality education, ending poverty, and more, “there is one engine that can drive them all: women’s power.”
The 2022 Gatekeepers report comes at a time when the world is having a steady recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and it indicates that despite significant setbacks caused by overlapping global crises, there is no hope to give up.
It stresses opportunities to accelerate progress toward ending poverty, fighting inequality, and reducing the impacts of climate change.