No time for empty promises

By Klara Nordstrom

March 6, 2020

Photo: UNDP India

On International Women’s Day, women and men, boys and girls all around the world come together to celebrate our fellow gender champions fighting for the realization of gender equality. As of today, no country has achieved complete gender equality and the 8th of March serves as an important reminder for all of us to acknowledge the achievements of women and girls.

2020 marks the beginning of the decade of action with only 10 years remaining for us to meet the Sustainable Developmental Goals, and it is a pivotal year for promoting gender equality as it celebrates several milestones, including the 20th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

While rigorous efforts have been made towards eliminating inequalities by bridging the gap between girls and boys in accessing livelihood opportunities and providing education and healthcare facilities for women and girls, the SDG India Index clearly shows that more joint efforts for realizing women’s rights are needed as the vast majority of states remain aspirants for the achievement of Goal 5 – Gender Equality.


The subject of inequalities between men and women, boys and girls has increasingly focused on the importance of sharing social responsibilities, but women globally remain the primary caregiver performing more than 3/4th of the total quantity of unpaid duties.

The unequal distribution of unpaid care work efficiently allows men to participate in the labor market, limiting a women’s capacity to do the same. In Asia and the Pacific, men spend the least time engaging in unpaid care work, and women in India spend 297 minutes a day against 31 minutes spent by men.

As of 2019, India ranks 129 in the Human Development Index, and the female workforce participation rate stands at 27.2 per cent as per 2017 figures, in comparison to 78.8 per cent male participation. These figures are alarming and progress towards gender equality is slowing down, not only in India but globally with new types of inequalities emerging as a result of climate change.

Depending on whom you ask – activists, researchers, practitioners or government officials – you’ll find a myriad of views on central issues and solutions for realizing women’s equal rights. Some might say that we should prioritize ensuring quality education as it is the foundation of sustainable development.

Others might bring out the necessity of working against climate change as a  disproportionate burden of the changes in climate will be placed on women and girls. Still others may point out how the elimination of violence against women is the cornerstone to securing our rights. What is indisputable, though, is that there will be no realization of women’s rights without acknowledging the important contributions made by women and girls across social, political, cultural, academics and financial spheres.


As highlighted in the Global Gender Gap Report, if we do not start to do things differently, the overall gender gap will not be closed for at least another 100 years. We must keep this figure in mind on International Women’s day and during the decade of action and recognize that it calls for a mind shift to acknowledge our failures to learn and the courage to start doing things differently.

Look at #FridaysForFuture, a movement starting with one individual raising her voice against climate change. This movement, which includes champions such as Ridhima Pandey, is a central example of why I identify with generation equality, a movement that envisions a world in which gender equality is the norm, where women and girls do not feel unsafe going out during the night, where equal work means equal salaries, and where boys and men are not stuck into rigid stereotypes.

On the International Women’s day, we do celebrate our fellow gender champions fighting for the realization of women’s rights during the decade of action. However, we must remember the global pushback and the increasing gender biases and negative attitudes against gender equality amongst both women and men. Quantifiable data shows a negative trend hindering gender equality in counties like India and Sweden and we must remember to #CheckYourBias as almost 90 percent of women and men are biased against women. Even though progress towards gender equality is slowing down, reducing inequalities is possible and there are no excuses - we must act now.

The writer is junior gender officer at UNDP India