Gender equality and women’s rights are key to addressing the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and accelerating global development beyond 2015. Gender equality matters in its own right, and as a prerequisite for the health and development of families and societies. The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Framework confronts the discriminatory social norms and practices that underlie gender inequality. Addressing girls’ and women’s rights is not an easy task. The priority is given to a longer and complex framework that addresses the structural causes of gender discrimination and inequality rather than a shorter set of goals. Having a standalone goal on gender equality (SDG5) makes a big difference in mobilizing action and resources. Tackling gender-based violence, unpaid care work, early marriage and harmful practices, among others, are now high on the gender and development agenda.
Addressing discriminatory social norms and institutions has become a new development priority and features strongly across the SDG5 targets. For the first time, girls and their unique needs get the global attention they deserve. Our next challenge after the adoption of the SDGs will be to move towards implementation. The question is how these broad targets and indicators are then adapted to suit the country and regional context. And in this regard we need to have a holistic approach that involves multiple stakeholders and ensure national and regional accountability mechanism. We need to include youth voices, address women and girls’ needs in humanitarian and emergency setting. WE also need to work with men and boys to address the patriarchal system so that there is a clear shift in their attitude towards viewing women and girls as right holders rather than objects of gratification or commodities. Gender inequality is not just a woman’s problem. Gender inequality is a societal and a human rights problem, with a multiplier effect on economies, communities and nations that is truly overwhelming. I strongly believe that the High Level Conference on Achieving Gender Equality, which takes place in Georgia on November 9-10, 2015, will help us to make step forward in our joint efforts to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment in ENP Region.