Five steps to turn SDG gender commitments into action

This post is written by Abigail Hunt, Policy and Advocacy Manager at Womankind Worldwide, and first appeared on

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are now live, and the clock is ticking for their achievement. Their inclusion of gender has been a huge achievement: SDG 5 to ‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’ contains several ambitious and transformative targets. But SDG 5 is, for the moment, just words on paper.

Fulfilling SDG 5 is a huge undertaking for any government. Putting gender on the agenda – and keeping it there – requires sustained and high-level political commitment. At the same time, it also requires concrete action. Here is my take on five priority actions for governments.

1: Carry out a stocktake on the existing gender equality framework

As a new ODI report explains, the experience gained from the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) bodes well for more rapid integration of the SDGs into country level planning. A review of existing gender equality strategies, policies and programmes to see if they are ‘fit for purpose’ against SDG 5 is an important first step.

This review should analyse how actions taken to implement SDG 5 fit in with work that is already underway to fulfil existing commitments to women’s rights and gender equality, notably the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 framework and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Understanding synergies will be key; it is better to close gaps than reinvent the wheel.

2. Coordinate action by developing costed, time-bound and financed action plans or strategies

SDG commitments to gender equality and women’s empowerment can be operationalised by establishing or strengthening Action Plans, whether these are standalone gender equality initiatives, those related to SDG targets (such as plans focused on violence against women), or SDG 5 commitments that are integrated into wider national or sectoral plans. If they are to achieve their full impact, Action Plans must be fully costed and resourced. Notably, while many other SDG targets have a 2030 deadline, there is no such deadline for any target under SDG 5. So the strongest SDG 5 Action Plans will also have clear timelines to address this omission and galvanise action.

The SDG Declaration emphasises participation and the Post-2015 framework development process has been fairly participatory in nature. Therefore, SDG 5 initiatives should be developed through multi-stakeholder dialogue or consultations. They must also be informed by the reality on the ground. The views of women (including women from marginalised and hard to reach groups) and of gender experts – particularly women’s rights organisations and movements – must play a central role.

SDG 5 cannot be fulfilled without a sustained approach to change that actually transforms gender attitudes and equality. This means tackling the structural barriers to gender equality and women’s empowerment. In other words, it means long-term work that looks beyond technical ‘fixes’ to recognise and support the inherently political nature of this work.


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Image credit: Ami Vitale, World Bank Photo


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