The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of goals that meet the urgent environmental, political, social and economic challenges facing our world. Utilising The Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission’s SDG publication Go and Do Something, we have created easy to read focus articles looking at each SDG from an Australian, Salvation Army perspective. These articles explore how each SDG affects us locally, and include practical tips of how you can get involved. We hope this tool will be of benefit to you as you seek to partner with God in bringing about his Kingdom.
Sustainable Development Goal 5: ACHIEVE GENDER EQUALITY AND EMPOWER ALL WOMEN AND GIRLS
- 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 decision‐making in political, economic and public life.
- Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.
- 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.
Australia likes to champion itself as the land of the ‘fair go’, yet for many women and girls in our country, this ‘fair go’ will never be a reality. Lt. Col. Eirwen Pallant from the ISJC observes in Go and Do Something that “Many women in the world are treated very differently, not just denied opportunities but used and abused by men, and other women, because they are seen as ‘lesser’ beings, and therefore not entitled to care or protection.” Some of the main obstacles holding women back and contributing to gender inequality are gender stereotypes and biases in workplaces and everyday life, sexual harassment, and the expectation that women bear the majority of unpaid domestic and caring work. In general, the Australian community continues to accept gender stereotypes and the impacts of these as norms, where speaking out can result in abuse and backlash. Gender inequality does not only affect women and girls, it hinders the wellbeing, livelihoods and opportunities of children and the sustainable development of countries and societies.
In Australia, women comprise roughly 46% of all employees, however they take home on average $251.20 less than men each week (full-time adult ordinary time earnings). The national gender “pay gap” is 15.3 per cent and it has remained stuck between 15% and 18% for the past two decades. In 2017, Australia was ranked 35th in countries in closing their gender pay gap and was reported to having closed the pay-gap by 73%.
Media often contributes to gender inequality through stereotypical portrayals of men and women and their relationships, and focusing on a woman’s physical appearance and what she is wearing rather than her ability. In movies and TV shows men are often portrayed as the hero, and someone who is active, adventurous and powerful, compared to women who are often portrayed as passive, dumb and dependent, and sometimes as sex objects. In news and reporting, women are still portrayed and represented poorly, for example in sport, female athletes are often considered inferior to male athletes and are generally given less air time. When a woman comes into power in government, for example when Julia Gillard became Prime minister, news outlets often focused on the clothes she was wearing, her haircut and her marital and parental status. These portrayals distract people from seeing women as capable, and the equal of men.
The Gospels show that Christ came to bring life in all its fullness to all people, regardless of gender, race, or economic status. Jesus engaged with women and treated them with dignity and respect, even though women were repressed and regarded inferior to men in society. One stereotype that is still held by some people today is that a woman’s main role is to have children and take care of the home and everyone in it. When Jesus visited Mary and Martha he clearly demonstrated that women should be given the same opportunity as men to learn, by praising Mary’s choice to learn alongside the men rather than reprimanding her to go and work in the kitchen. Despite this, religious prejudice in favour of men to hold positions of power and influence, such as preaching, continues to be the reality in some churches and Christian traditions within Australia and globally. 
What can we do?
- Support women and girls who have been abused and lost their self-esteem. Encourage and enable them to build up their confidence in who they are and their abilities.
- Be aware of our language and focus when talking to and about women, valuing their contribution and skills above their appearance.
- Raise awareness of gender inequality and speak up against issues like gender pay-gap, sexual harassment, and gender stereotyping and derogatory language.
- Provide opportunities for women and girls to take active leadership within your church, so that all voices are heard.
- Commit to this SDG in prayer both individually and as a Corps
– Pray for women and girls who are suffering, being treated as less than their true worth because of their gender.
– Pray that attitudes will change, making it unacceptable to commodify women or men so that all people are recognised as being persons of value.
– Pray that all men and women, girls and boys in the Church will learn to respect each other, appreciate their differences and recognise how together we can enhance one another.
– Pray for our nation’s leaders that they will feel convicted to put a stop to gender inequality and discrimination based on gender, in all its forms.
For more reading on The Salvation Army’s thoughts around SDG 5, see the International Social Justice Commission’s Go and Do Something publication.
 'Gender Equality', Lt. Col. Eirwen Pallant in The Salvation Army’s Go and Do Something. https://www.salvationarmy.org/isjc  'A Conversation in Gender Equality', Australian Human Rights Commission, March 2017.  'A Conversation in Gender Equality', AHRC.  'Gender Equality', World Vision, 2015. www.worldvision.com.au  Picture: Australian Human Rights Commission  'Face the Facts', Australian Human Rights Commission, 2018. www.humanrights.gov.au  'Global Gender Gap Report 2017', World Economic Forum. http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2017/performance-by-region-and-country/  'Gendered Media: The Influence of Media on Views of Gender', Julia T. Wood, 1994. https://www.nyu.edu/classes/jackson/causes.of.gender.inequality  'Gendered Media', Wood.  'The Impact of the Media on Gender inequality within Sport', Eoin J. Trolan, 2013. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.08.420  ' How Far has Australia Come in Terms of Gender Equality', Milly Stilinovic, 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/millystilinovic/2017/  Luke 10:38-42  'Jesus and Justice', International Social Justice Commission, 2011.