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Gender inequality – a threat to sustainable development

Tina Schoolmeester

Story by GRID-Arendal March 8th, 2017

Despite the fact that March 8th is International Women’s Day, for many women and children in Somalia, today will be just as hard a struggle as any other day.

International Women’s Day was recognised by the United Nations in 1975. It is a global event that both commemorates progress made and calls for more gender equality and women´s rights.


"On International Women’s Day, let us all pledge to do everything we can to overcome entrenched prejudice, support engagement and activism, and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment."

— UN Secretary-General, António Guterres


This year´s theme focuses on women’s work and highlights the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially those on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. Other goals, such as those focused on “ensuring inclusive and quality education for all” and “promoting lifelong learning” are also highlighted

Author: Riccardo Pravettoni, GRID-Arendal
Author: Riccardo Pravettoni, GRID-Arendal

Gender inequality is one of the most persistent risks to sustainable development and is adversely affecting the access to, and the use of natural resources such as water and land. Other factors such as climate change and environmental disasters exacerbate these inequalities and make the inequality gap even wider.

The current drought in Somalia and other countries in the Horn of Africa is a symptom of a changing regional climate. It affects millions of people, many of whom have been displaced due to years of conflict in the area. They face famine, malnutrition and death. The lack of water is exceptionally severe on women, children and disabled persons. Besides high levels of food insecurity, children are dropping out of school, there is a lack of sanitary facilities and sexual assault is widespread.

The Somali Gender Equity Movement (SGEM) is a global movement comprising 9,000 Somali women – inside the country and in the diaspora – who advocate for gender equality and women´s political leadership in that country. Its mission is to promote equal political and social representation of Somali women in public decision making and assist with peacebuilding and reconciliation. Creating a safe, healthy and equitable future that leaves no one behind will benefit men and boys as well as women and girls and the environment as a whole.

Photo provided by UN Environment
Photo provided by UN Environment
Photo provided by UN Environment
Photo provided by UN Environment

Supporting movements like SGEM could provide an entirely different angle on what we consider to be development aid and might help improve the lives of millions of women, men and children in their quest for basic human rights – from political decision making to the enjoyment of a healthy, sustainable environment.

Footnote: Header photo: Provided by UN Environment