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There is no sustainability without gender equality

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According to Istat data, there was a loss of 444,000 jobs due to the pandemic, of which 312,000 were women. Why did women pay the price?

Gender stereotypes continue to fuel a discriminatory and non-inclusive model. Here then is the fundamental importance of the 5th Sustainability Goal of the UN 2030 Agenda on gender equality.

But what does gender equality have to do with sustainable development?

A new definition of Sustainability

In September 2015, the 193 member countries of the U.N. signed the2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: this is a program in which 169 targets are encapsulated, 17 of which are for Sustainable Development, the so-called SDGs.

The goal of the 2030 Agenda, which follows on from the Millennium Development Goals, is to take action in what are called the 3 core areas of Sustainable Development: the economic, social and environmental dimensions.

Reading through the document, a very relevant detail emerges, namely the definition of those of the 2030 Agenda as "common goals": not only of the states involved, but of every single citizen. No one is excluded and no one should be left behind in this long journey. Each individual is a key building block in achieving the ambitious goal of a sustainable society.

Rethinking the development model

A major change from the past concerns the UN's stance on the development model that has characterized the growth of nations to date.

The current development model has been declared unsustainable, not only environmentally (and thus the exploitation of natural resources), but also economically and socially.

With the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UN challenges member states to question how sustainable is a human society that does not guarantee basic rights to people, where inequality is a fundamental feature of the economic model and where poverty is still present, despite the fact that human intelligence is capable of finding resilient and innovative solutions.

Gender equality in the UN 2030 agenda.

When we hear about Sustainable Development, in the collective imagination, thoughts immediately turn to the world of green and environmental sustainability.

So what does sustainability have to do with the goal of achieving gender equality?

The definition of Sustainability, for the United Nations, is embodied in the "5 P's."

  1.  People. Eliminate hunger and poverty in all forms, ensure digity and equality
  2. Prosperity. Ensuring prosperous and full lives in harmony with nature.
  3. Peace. Promoting peaceful, just and inclusive societies.
  4. Partnerships. Implementing the Agenda through strong partnerships
  5. Planet. Protect the planet's natural resources and climate for future generations.

This explains why there is a 5th sustainability goal: Gender Equality.

If we read the 5 P's carefully, it becomes clear how a sustainable society is based oninclusiveness, non-discrimination and thus the promotion of human dignity.

How could we ever reverse the spiral of environmental destruction and begin to protect the planet if we are still unable to value all of humanity?

The United Nations has made explicit what achieving Goal 5 of the 2030 Agenda on gender equality means in practice:

  • Stop all forms of discrimination against women and girls;
  • Eliminate violence against women, girls and children, both in the private and public sphere;
  • Eliminate all abusive practices: female mutilation and arranged marriages, for example;
  • Recognize and value unpaid domestic work;
  • Stop all forms of discrimination against women and girls;
  • Equal leaership opportunities ;
  • Universal access to sexual health.

Unfortunately, there still seems to be a long way to go.

The data are, in fact, merciless: the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the situation of many people, showing, once again, the vulnerability of women, who are unprotected culturally and socially.

The economic status of women in the Covid-19 era.

From 2014 to 2019 we witnessed a real surge in employment and in the world of female entrepreneurship: a trend that concerned, in Italy, the northern and central regions and saw female entrepreneurship clearly ahead of male entrepreneurship. (Source: Confesercenti Studies Office).

Then came 2020 with a global health emergency and subsequent economic crisis. And it was mostly women who paid for it.

"The difficulties posed by lockdowns and restrictions on the family dimension have mainly taken their toll on women," explains Anna Maria Crispino, president of Impresa Donna Confesercenti. "Many women entrepreneurs, in the absence of a welfare network that allows them to reconcile family life and work, have come to a standstill."

1 in 2 women saw their economic situation worsen due to Covid-19. According to Istat data, there has been a loss of 444,000 jobs due to the pandemic, of which 312,000 are women.

This means that 1 in 2 women have lost their jobs, are afraid of losing them, or have had to close a business.

The survey "The Economic Condition of Women in the Covid-19 Era" by WeWorld Onlus in collaboration with Ipsos paints a troubling picture of the Italian condition:

  • Worsening economic condition, affecting single mothers even more severely;
  • Defiance: 28% of unemployed women chose to stop looking for work;
  • Economic dependence: more than 4 out of 10 women are economically dependent on their partner or family of origin.

The survey points out how, in an emergency situation such as the one created by the pandemic, women turn out to be the element that is challenged in the world of work "complicit in gender stereotypes and the legacies of a patriarchal system, which continue to emphasize the role of women as caregivers and men as breadwinners of the family."

According to data collected by WeWorld Onlus last May, 60 percent of women had reported that they take care of children, the elderly and the disabled on their own (compared to 21 percent of men), often along with work. This resulted in a burden that was often too heavy, to the point that 1 in 2 women in Italy had to abandon plans and projects because of COVID-19, compared to 2 in 5 men.

This is unacceptable for a developed country.

We need to redesign and rethink the development model, seeking and searching for solutions that can truly create opportunities and not inequality.

Because women, in this pandemic, are paying a very high price, and this is not only morally incorrect but also unacceptable if we adopt a perspective of sustainable societal evolution that leaves no one behind (just as the SDGs propose).

Reframing the patterns, toward an inclusive and therefore sustainable society

Precisely, because Covid-19 has disrupted all patterns, it would be appropriate to think of new ones, to decide to allocate a considerable amount of the Recovery Fund to improve and create new public social facilities and give women the opportunity to seriously do entrepreneurship.

We need to think about allocating these funds to create facilities for the elderly and children, so that we can liberate women and allow them to realize themselves and create businesses.

There are not a few proposals that associations have highlighted during this March 8, 2021, from WeWorld Onlus (from the elimination of the Gender Pay Gap to family and work life policies to the eradication of gender stereotypes starting in kindergarten) to the petition to the Draghi government for an investment plan to reduce the gender gap, by the women's network "The Right Middle."

The pandemic has extended the timeframe for achieving gender equality by more than half a century, pushing it back from 2120 to 2171. It is necessary and urgent to create the conditions for women to participate in social and economic life actively rather than passively.

Manuela Barbara Soldati 

Content Coordinator of Content Marketing - Digital Innovation Days

 Roberta Russo

Content Coordinator of Sustainability - Digital Innovation Days

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