The UN’s SDGs will remain a pipe dream unless gender violence is addressed and women are economically empowered

New York/London (September 25, 2019): The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will remain a pipe dream unless world leaders accelerate efforts for the economic empowerment of women and address gender-based violence, CARE International experts say.

As global leaders meet at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York to assess progress on the SDGs, studies by CARE International note that there has been a worrying increase in cases of exploitation and abuse of women in conflict and disaster zones.

Sofía Sprechmann, CARE International’s Program Director, said:

Where there are wars and natural disasters, we are seeing a roll back of sexual and reproductive rights. Our studies show an increase in cases of abuse of women and girls. This is putting millions of women and girls at risk of diseases while marginalising them from positions of responsibility. These forms of exploitation and abuse also relate to the fundamental systemic roots that are at the heart of violence and other harmful practices against women.

Studies show that the scourge of child marriage still occurs around the world, and cuts across countries, cultures, religions and ethnicities. 45 per cent of girls under age 18 are forced to get married in South Asia. In Latin America and the Caribbean, that figure is 23 per cent; while in sub-Saharan Africa almost 40 per cent of young girls get married before they are adults. In 2019, such statistics paint a very grim picture.

In 2015, world leaders made a pledge to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030. Goal 5 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development contains targets to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, end female genital mutilation and child marriage, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health care, and uphold women’s reproductive rights.

Vanessa Jackson, CARE International’s UN Representative, said:

CARE’s experience shows that we can start to turn these figures around if girls get an education, if they can delay getting married and have a choice about when and how many children they will have.

But these changes take entire communities, including men and boys, to be mobilised and to value women and girls’ contribution. These changes are possible and when they happen, the changes are truly transformational in those communities. We need to be learning from these successes and scaling them up at the global level.

CARE is this week urging various stakeholders including governments, businesses, NGOs and the public to collaborate in contributing towards the collective goals. According to Jackson, the aid agency’s latest report, CARE’s SDG Impact, demonstrates "how we are working with governments, the private sector, donors and civil society partners to contribute to SDGs, and we want to be held accountable for supporting progress toward these goals."

The report shows that since 2015, CARE and its partners have contributed to positive impacts for 45.8 million people - 70% of whom are women and girls. CARE has also made food and nutrition security and resilience to climate change a priority area for its work. Since 2014, CARE has helped nearly 5.9 million people to increase their food and nutrition security, across 23 countries.

One successful project was established in Zimbabwe’s drought-hit Bikita district where villagers, CARE agricultural experts and other donors came together in a partnership to build a dam, which has helped the community to boost their production of food and ability to withstand the effects of climate change.

Iliene Madyivona, the Chairperson of Shato gardening project in Bikita district, said:

We started preparing to build our dam guided by the engineers from CARE in 2015. We knew we had been struggling to get enough rains for years and our growing families were not having enough to eat.

Today we have a dam that can hold enough water reserves to irrigate our communal garden for most of the year. Here we get all sorts of fruits and crops such as bananas, beans, tomatoes and butternut squash. We have seen a definite improvement in our diets and the immune system of our children. As a result, we do not face hunger anymore and we think we are better able to cope with the effects of the changing climate.


For media queries, please contact:

Henry Makiwa, Senior Humanitarian Communications Coordinator, CARE International –

Notes to Editors

  • CARE’s 2020 program strategy aims to help tackle the underlying causes of poverty and social injustice, as part of global efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in September 2015.
  • Since then, CARE and partners have contributed to positive impacts for 45.8 million people (70% of whom are women and girls). This represents data from 2015 to 2018, reported by 713 projects and programmes in 74 countries.
  • CARE puts women and girls in the centre because we know that we cannot overcome poverty until all people have equal rights and opportunities. All of CARE’s programmes seek to strengthen Gender Equality and Women’s Voice, while Women’s Economic Empowerment is a vital dimension of CARE’s work, addressing the factors that undermine women’s equality.
  • CARE’s programmes seek to create the conditions – personal, social and structural - that enable all individuals to realise their Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) rights, based on principles of equality, nondiscrimination and accountability.

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