Not a single country is on track to achieve gender equality by the 2030 target world leaders set under the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, girls’ rights organisation Plan International has revealed.

An analysis undertaken by Plan International to mark the annual meeting of political and business leaders in Davos taking place in Switzerland this week, reveals that even in the most progressive societies, discriminatory gender norms continue to oppress girls and women.

Susanne Legena, Acting CEO of Plan International Australia, said: “Countries like Australia, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland are generally considered leaders in gender equality thanks to exemplary anti-discrimination laws, policies and high female labour-force participation.

“But it’s clear that focusing on these areas is not enough. Even here at home, girls and women suffer frighteningly high levels of sexual violence and we still bear the brunt of the domestic work. No country will come even close to true gender equality unless they broaden their focus beyond laws and policies, to also tackle harmful gender norms.

“We can’t ignore the fact that 57 per cent of women in Australia have experienced physical or sexual violence in Australia. These are astronomically high statistics. In the USA, it’s 55% and Denmark 50%.”

In 2015, world leaders agreed the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 5: to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” by 2030. But last year, the gender gap actually widened for the first time since records began, with the estimated time to close the gap rising from 83 years to 100 years.

“In 2018, the Australian Government will be reporting to the world on its progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. This report provides a wake-up call that we need to do much more to tackle harmful gender norms if we really want girls to grow up in an equal world,” Ms Legena added.

The Plan International review found in Germany a third (32%) of men think it’s justifiable for a man to beat his wife or partner under certain circumstances.

In Finland, only 23% of science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) students are women and in Sweden, women occupy less than a quarter of roles in the information technology, telecoms and STEM sectors.

Globally, gender inequality creates an even larger gap in the 56 developing countries where Plan International works. Plan International is calling on the business leaders attending Davos to:

  • Invest in initiatives that address the harmful norms girls and women face at different stages in their lives.

  • Take a zero-tolerance approach to harassment and gender-based violence and foster workplace environments where women can call out harmful gender norms without fear of repercussions.
  • Reject advertising that uses harmful gender stereotypes and commit to campaigns that change attitudes about the role of girls and women in society and work life.
  • Create safe and family-friendly working environments which promote flexible working and incentives for men to take an equal role in childcare.
  • Scrutinise promotion and recruitment processes for gender bias.
  • Introduce mentoring programmes for girls and women, especially in under-represented sectors such as IT, telecoms, science and technology.

Plan International’s global CEO, Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, who is currently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, said: “The private sector has a vital role to play in tackling harmful gender norms. It is only when they work together with civil society, governments and the media to address gender norms that truly transformative change will occur.”


Notes to Editors:

  • The World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report 2017 predicted it will take 100 years to close the overall gender gap, up from 83 years in 2016. This forecast does not take into account gender norms.
  • As part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, countries are encouraged to conduct regular reviews on their progress towards the SDGs, known as Voluntary National Reviews. Australia will be presenting its first review at the UN in July 2018.

About Plan International

Plan International is an independent development and humanitarian organisation that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. Working together with children, young people, our supporters and partners, we strive for a just world, tackling the root causes of the challenges facing girls and all vulnerable children.

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