Moving forward with Sustainable Development GoalsAccordingly, in 2015, the United Nations came up with the universal 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The agenda includes seventeen quantitative goals – Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) committed to being achieved by 2030. Intended to eradicate the major global challenges, SDGs pay an especial focus on women’s health and gender equality. Interestingly, WHO also observes gender equality as central to all SDGs, which, if remained unachieved, may compromise the implementation of the rest sixteen goals. Each SDG consists of one or more targets. Aligning to each target are indicators to identify instances of gender inequalities and measure achievements. For women’s health and equality the goals 3 and 5 remain important.
SDG #3: Good health and well-being for all
Good health is a fundamental human right. Thus, healthcare continues to be a matter of concern around the world. Although the Indian healthcare facilities are improving undoubtedly, not adequate steps have been taken to address women’s health issues. Several factors prevent women from availing themselves of health amenities. For example, no gender-based data about the disease incidence, prevalence, morbidity, and mortality exists. The evidence about preventive care for women remains amiss. Adequate knowledge about such issues can help curb the death from noncommunicable diseases. Mental health issues remain massively unrecognized, again with no gender-specific data. So, accessible and affordable female health solutions are the need of the hour.
Ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being for all at all ages is essential to sustainable development.
There are two female-oriented targets within SDG 3 on women health:
- Reduce global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births.
- Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services.
SDG #5: Gender equality
Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
There are nine targets within SDG 5 on women empowerment:
- End all forms of discrimination, violence against all women and girls in public and private spheres.
- Bring an end to all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation.
- Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work.
- Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels.
- Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.
- 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.
- Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology.
- Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation to promote gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels.
Why is there a necessity for SDGs to solve female gender-related issues?
- SDGs raise awareness and educate government, corporate sector players, academics, civil society leaders, and ordinary citizens about the need for equal rights and opportunities for women.
- Since these are implemented on a global scale, the goals motivate global communities to work in unison. As the popular saying goes, ‘in unity there is strength, this shared focus results in a greater mobilization of stakeholders and change-makers.
- They allow public and private sector players to form long-term transformative change in achieving the goal. This will help to protect the planning process from short-term business and political importance.
- They empower civil society groups to monitor the goal’s advancement by questioning the government and private companies.
Indian approach/contextWith a likelihood of soon becoming the fastest-growing economy globally, India needs to be concerned about these two goals. In a bid to do so, India set up ‘Think Tank-NITI Aayog, in 2015. Abbreviating for National Institution for Transforming India (where there is a federal structure of governance), together with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, aims to drive the 2030 Agenda by fostering cooperative and competitive federalism through the involvement of state governments/UTs towards a common cause. Accomplishments and current status of NITI Aayog initiatives like in promoting women health and gender equality in 2019-20:
- In reducing the maternal mortality rate (MMR), the MMR has seen a decline over India’s years. Kerala, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu achieved an MMR target below 70 for every one lakh live births. However, there remains room for improvement in the same at the national level.
- In promoting child deliveries in hospitals– About 54.7% of deliveries took place in health institutions. The proportion of births attended by skilled health workers is a quantitative indicator of Target #1, which shows the difference to be covered in achieving T#1.
- Family planning– Around 47.8% of married women aged 15 to 49 years used a modern family planning method like intrauterine devices (IUDs), injectables, and barrier methods. The UN is committed to make it 100 percent. The UN aims to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services like family planning and education.
How can you, as a science communicator, help?A high-level global conference convened by SDSN and Springer Nature saw a discussion on solving the most critical sustainable development challenges. The key takeaways highlighted the need for strong engagement with people and communities, the importance of making data available, accessing improved strategies to bring scientific communities, and cutting across silos to communicate scientific findings. Accordingly, through science communication, the information can be dispersed down to the grass-roots level, educating women and helping them harness the power of information. Further, the regional communicators having command over the local language can help propagate the goals and the required actions while facilitating a two-way dialog with the target audience. Doing so can produce long-lasting, positive impacts on education, economic prosperity, social inclusion, and environmental protection, taking women forward to a new era of sustainable development. Furthermore, per UNSECO:
The new paradigm for health is people-oriented: A bottom-up process that pays due attention to the individual, the family, and the community, but especially to the underprivileged and those who are at risks, such as women and children, and the elderly.Additionally, mobilizing people at grassroots levels through informing and motivating community members through multiple channels and sustaining active participation can also be achieved through targeted science communication activities.