Insights into the UNSDGs: Slow progress towards UNSDG-5 and gender equality is better than no progress


The 2022 report on the progress of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) has raised significant doubts about whether achieving gender equality by 2030 will be met. This is despite increased awareness of gender inequality in recent years. The report also revealed that there is still a significant gap between men and women in terms of access to resources, economic opportunities, and other forms of empowerment.

The COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukraine war and related economic and social impacts have relatively worsened the situation for women and girls. “Gender equality, as rightly pointed out by UNESCO and UN, amongst others, is not only a fundamental human right but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. There has been progress over the last decades, but the world is not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030,” the UN warned.

This sluggish headway towards gender equality is primarily due to the inconsistency and uncoordinated efforts by governments worldwide to place enhanced focus on the active promotion of laws, policies, budgets and institutions” that support and accelerate gender equality.

The 5th Sustainable Development Goal set forth by the United Nations focuses on the absolute necessity of achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls worldwide. This goal is critical to building a more resilient and sustainable future for all without leaving anyone behind.

UNSDG-5 targets include:

  • End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
  • Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
  • Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
  • Recognise and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate.
  • Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.
  • Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences.
  • Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources and access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources in accordance with national laws.
  • Enhance the use of enabling technology, mainly information and communications technology, to promote women’s empowerment.
  • Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels.

The aftermath of the global pandemic and the Ukraine war has brought about significant disruptions in healthcare, particularly affecting women’s access to essential health services. Adding to this challenge is the grim reality of gender-based violence that still exists in many parts of the world. “This issue is further complicated by the inadequate resources and support available to those impacted by such violence”. (UN SDG Report, 2022).

The UN reports that “globally, 26 per cent of “ever-partnered” women aged 15 and older (641 million) have been subjected to physical or sexual violence by a husband or intimate partner at least once in their lifetime.” Recent data has revealed that the pandemic has devastated women and girls, with violence against them intensifying and leading to a denial of their rights to live free from inequities and cruelties. This has hindered any potential progress in reducing gender-based discrimination, an urgent problem that demands attention.

A 2021 rapid gender assessment survey in 13 countries, undertaken by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), found that 45 per cent of women reported that they or a woman they know has experienced some form of violence since COVID-19.” In the same year, data revealed that one (1) in five (5) young women were married before 18 years. 

The prevalence of child marriage has been on the decline. However, economic and social shocks and school closures have increased the risks of young girls becoming child brides. The report also estimated that an additional 10 million girls will become child brides by 2030. This is in addition to the already shocking 100 million girls at risk worldwide before this crisis. (UN SDG Report, 2022).

The UN also revealed that “only 57 per cent of women aged 15 to 49 who are married or in a union make their own informed decisions regarding sexual relations, contraceptive use and reproductive health care, according to data from 64 countries for 2007–2021” (UN SDG Report, 2022).

“The COVID-19 fallout has arguably had a significant impact on women’s ability to harness bodily autonomy”. The report reaffirmed. Several reasons for this reduced autonomy, including: “financial hardships that prevented them from making their own decisions to seek health care and contraception. During lockdown periods, women may have found it harder to say no to sex due to increased tensions in the home related to health, finance and social isolation. Finally, disruption or suspension of sexual and reproductive health care may have made these essential services inaccessible to women.”

Gender inequality in politics and the economy remains challenging for many countries, including Ghana. Women are not equally represented in national parliaments, but affirmative action and gender mainstreaming policies may help achieve equal representation by 2030.

Progress towards specific Sustainable Development Goal targets, such as unpaid care and domestic work, reproductive health decision-making, and gender-responsive budgeting, also needs to catch up, according to the 2022 UN report.

To sum up,  the world is currently not on track to meet the Sustainable Development Agenda’s 2030 deadline for the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. The fallout from the pandemic, climate crisis, Ukraine war and other political and economic instability has slowed progress and even reversed some previous gains.

A 2022 report from the UN-Women organisation cautions that at the current rate of progress,

  1. it will take another 286 years to reform legal frameworks to promote, enforce, and monitor gender equality in public life.
  2. Of women and girls aged 15-49, over 1 in 10 (12.5%) were subjected to sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner in the last year.
  • To end child marriage by 2030, progress must be 17 times faster than it was over the last decade.

To reverse this trend, more must be done to ensure that women and girls have access to education, healthcare, economic opportunities, and other rights and resources. This includes strengthening laws and policies that protect women’s rights, increasing funding for programmes that support gender equality, and ensuring that decision-makers are held accountable for their commitments to gender equality.

>>>The writer is an international chartered director and Africa’s first-ever appointed Professor Extraordinaire for Industrialisation and Supply Chain Governance. He is the CEO of PanAvest International and the founding non-executive chairman of MY-future YOUR-Future and OUR-Future (“MYO”) and the “thought-provoking” daily Nyansa Kasa(words of wisdom) series. Professor Boateng is currently the non-executive chairman of the Minerals Income and Investment Fund (MIIF). He was previously the non-executive chairman of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA). For more information on Nyansakasa, visit and

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