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    Civil Society's Report Card on the SDGs

    By Paige Higbie, UN Youth Rep Coordinator

    A critical addition to the 2030 agenda has been the introduction of an annual report on the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals. Notorious as the not-for-profit sector is for lacking 'key performance indicators', the Annual Progress Report provides a notable exception. It is the annual report card on the global progress made on the quantifiable metrics embedded in the 2030 Agenda.

    For my purposes, I intend to limit my scope to examining the progress we have made on women's empowerment. I went through the entire annual report and pulled out anything relating to women. Loosely speaking, there are three main categories of indicator: Health, Economic Representation, Human Rights and Political Participation. The results are as follows:


    • 41% of women receive maternity benefits worldwide.
    • Access to family planning and reproductive healthcare has seen substantial increases worldwide; particularly in the least developed countries which have improved by 18% from 2000 to 2017.
    • The practice of female genital mutilation has decreased by 24% since 2000. That being said, in certain regions the ratio has only decreased by 1 in 2 to 1 in 3.

    Economic Representation:

    • Female representation in senior and middle management remains low, with fewer than a third of employees in these tiers being women (data sourced from 67 countries)
    • Globally, women are more likely to be unemployed than men across all age groups.
    • Young women are more likely than young men to fall the category of 'neither working or in the education system' in 70% of countries
    • In 2016, the global rate of internet user penetration was 12% lower for women than men. Least developed countries are even worse, with a 31% gender gap.

    Human Rights and Political Participation:

    • In 2012, almost half of all homicides with a female victim were perpetrated by an intimate partner or family member worldwide. For male victims this was only 6%.
    • Child marriage is declining, but not fast enough. The gains have mostly been in the under 15 age group. Globally 1 in 4 girls are married under the age of 18, down from 1 in 3 in 2000.
    • Globally in upper and lower houses of government the percentage of women representatives has only increased by 10% since 2000.
    • Of 43 developing countries, only 52% of married women or women in unions make their own decisions about having sex, using contraceptives and female healthcare services.
    • Representation of women and girls in trafficked persons has reduced from 84% in 2004 to 71% in 2014. 20% of trafficked persons are female children, whereas only 8% are male children.

    In summary, the world is generally improving with respect to women's empowerment, particularly with regard to access to healthcare. That being said, the trajectory of growth is slower than most would like. Gaining ground in economic representation remains slow going and progress in women's rights and political participation is proving a very tough nut to crack. As advocates of women's empowerment, I think it is important to look at these results and congratulate ourselves on what has been achieved, to not be disheartened by the slow trajectory. Remember that a global decrease of 1 in 3 to 1 in 4 women being married under the age of 18 means that around 309,687,500,000 women that would have been married underage didn't. Yes, I did the math. That is a lot of lives.


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