Global gender equality: Five facts on Goal 5 of UN Sustainable Development Goals

Youth can take action as engaged global citizens to help ensure global gender equality by learning about and taking action on Goal 5 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.


Accomplishing Goal 5 of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals, which seeks to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls,” is viewed by many people as the key to ending global poverty, improving the state of the planet and ensuring access, for people everywhere, to the resources needed to enjoy a good quality of life. The Sustainable Development Goals are 17 interconnected goals that seek to transform our world by ending all forms of poverty, eliminating inequalities and improving the state of the world’s natural and human-made environments. Leaders from the 193 member countries of the UN have agreed to engage in efforts to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by the year 2030.

The following are some interesting facts and educational resources related to gender equality. Adults and youth leaders can use these facts to help children and other youth learn about and take action as engaged global citizens on achieving global gender equality.

  1. Ensuring the equal rights of men and women has long been a goal of the international community. Equality between men and women was included in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is a component of many other international agreements. While progress has been made in some areas towards achieving equality between the genders, much work is left to be done to ensure women and girls achieve equality with men and boys. Sustainable Development Goal 5 continues placing the achievement of gender equality at the center of sustained international efforts as it seeks to “end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.”
  2. Women make up approximately two-thirds of the adults in the world who cannot read. Without the equal access to education and information that reading allows, women are disproportionally denied access to opportunities and information that are available to those who can read, according to the UN Population Fund.
  3. Up to 70 percent of women experience violence in their lifetime. According to the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence Against Women, “violence against women takes many forms – physical, sexual, psychological and economic.” Goal 5 seeks to “eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and other types of exploitation.”
  4. In developing countries, one-third of girls are married before turning 18, and one-ninth before turning 15, according the UN Population Fund. Child marriage, early marriage and forced marriage are harmful practices that are considered to be human rights violations by many in the international community. These practices often prevent girls from accessing education and can lead to adverse health outcomes, leading to further negative consequences for individuals, communities and societies.
  5.  Globally, women comprise only 22 percent of all national legislative seats, and serve as Head of State in 11 countries and Head of Government in 10 countries, according to UN Women. Goal 5 seeks to promote gender equality by ensuring “women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.”

Young people have a role to play as engaged global citizens in ensuring global gender equality. Here are a couple resources youth can use for peer-to-peer education with other youth that are focused on topics related to gender equality:

  • Voices Against Violence is a peer-to-peer education curriculum available from UN Women with activities for youth ages 5-25 to help young people learn the causes of violence, engage in violence prevention and access support in their own community.
  • The Change-Makers: A Young Activist’s Toolkit for Ending Violence Against Women and Girls, also available from UN Women, is a “youth-friendly toolkit for peer educators to facilitate discussions on gender equality, violence against women, healthy relationships and positive activism.” While the toolkit was designed for youth in the Asia-Pacific region of the world, it includes many activities that young people anywhere could use to help educate their peers.

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program helps to prepare youth as positive and engaged leaders and global citizens by providing educational experiences and resources for youth interested in developing knowledge and skills in these areas. To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, civic engagement, citizenship and global/cultural programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders."

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