SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Photo: UNPhoto/Sylvain Lietchti


  • 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.
  • Recognize 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 decisionmaking 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, as well as 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, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women.
  • 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.
SDG 5: Gender equality

The Sustainable Development Goals seek to change the course of the 21st century, addressing key challenges such as poverty, inequality, and violence against women and girls.

Women’s empowerment is a pre-condition for this.

Therefore, achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment is a stand-alone goal—Goal 5—of the SDGs. It is also part of all the other goals, with many targets specifically recognizing women’s equality and empowerment as both the objective, and as part of the solution.  

Deep legal and legislative changes are needed to ensure women’s rights and leadership around the world. Although 47 per cent [1] of world business leaders say they are in favor of gender quotas on corporate boards, women remain underrepresented in leadership and management level positions in the public and private sectors. Less than one-third of senior- and middle-management positions are held by women [2].

While 39 per cent of countries worldwide have used some form of quota system to increase women’s representation in politics, parity is far from reality—as of 2017, only 23.4 per cent of all national parliamentarians are women [3].

In the labour market, women worldwide make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men [4]. At the same time, they carry out three times as much unpaid household and care work as men [5]—from cooking and cleaning, to fetching water and firewood, or taking care of children and the elderly.

No country in the world is untouched by the pandemic of intimate partner violence—1 in 5 women and girls aged 15 to 49 across 87 countries reported experiencing physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner [6]; 49 countries have no laws specifically protecting women from domestic violence [7].

Harmful practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation, continue to rob women and girls of equal opportunities. The numbers are staggering— at least 200 million women and girls have undergone FGM; and over 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday [8].

Achieving gender equality and sustainable development by 2030 will require stepping up efforts at all fronts. UN Women works to empower women and girls through all of its programmes and advocacy.

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[1] Grant Thornton (2015). International Business Report 2015.

[2] UN Economic and Social Council (2017). Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals: Report of the Secretary-General (E/2017/66).

[3] Inter-Parliamentary Union. “Women in national parliaments”, as of June 2017. Available from

[4] UN Economic and Social Council (December, 2016). Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work: Report of the Secretary-General (E/CN.6/2017/3).

[5] UN Economic and Social Council (2017). Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals: Report of the Secretary-General (E/2017/66).

[5] UN Economic and Social Council (December, 2016). Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work: Report of the Secretary-General (E/CN.6/2017/3).

[7] Data on laws is based on a review of 189 countries and territories from Women Business and the Law Database, 2016.

[8] UNICEF global database (2016). Available from

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) SDG 15: Life on land SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions SDG 14: Life below water SDG 13: Climate action SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities SDG 10: Reduced inequalities SDG 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth SDG 7: Affordable and clean energy SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation SDG 5: Gender equality SDG 4: Quality education SDG 3: Good health and well-being SDG 2: Zero hunger SDG 1: No poverty Women and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
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