Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Empowering women and girls to reach their full potential requires that they have equal opportunities to those of men and boys. This means eliminating all forms of discrimination and violence against them, including violence by intimate partners, sexual violence and harmful practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM). Ensuring that women have better access to paid employment, sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, and real decision-making power in public and private spheres will further ensure that development is equitable and sustainable.

Rates of child marriage have declined overall but remain at unacceptable levels, especially in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa

The practice of child marriage has been declining slowly. Globally, the proportion of women aged 20 to 24 who reported that they were married before their eighteenth birthdays dropped from 32 per cent around 1990 to 26 per cent around 2015. Child marriage is most common in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, with rates of 44 per cent and 37 per cent, respectively. In fact, the 10 countries with the highest rates in the world are found in these two regions. Marriage rates for girls under age 15 are also highest in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, at 16 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively. But social norms can and do change: the marriage of girls under age 15 declined globally from 12 per cent in 1990 to 7 per cent today, although disparities persist across regions and even countries. The fastest progress in reducing child marriage overall has been recorded in Northern Africa, where the share of child brides dropped by more than half over the last 25 years, from 29 per cent to 13 per cent.

Proportion of women aged 20 to 24 years who were married or in a union before ages 15 and 18, 1990 and 2015 (percentage)
Note: The values for 2015 refer to the latest available data collected between 2010 and 2014. Because of rounding, percentages in chart may not add up to totals.

Despite progress, more than one in three girls aged 15 to 19 in the 30 countries where the practice is concentrated have undergone female genital mutilation

FGM is a human rights violation that affects girls and women worldwide, especially in countries where it is an entrenched social norm. At least 200 million have been cut in the 30 countries where the practice is concentrated and that have representative prevalence data. Rates of FGM overall have declined by more than 25 per cent over the last three decades. However, not all countries have made progress, and the pace of decline has been uneven. Today, in these 30 countries, more than one in three girls aged 15 to 19 have undergone the procedure versus one in two in the mid-1980s.

Different forms of violence, including physical, sexual, psychological and economic, as well as trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation affect millions of women and girls worldwide. This not only constitutes a grave violation of human rights, but also hinders the process of development. Available comparable data from 52 countries (including only one country from the developed regions) indicate that 21 per cent of girls and women interviewed aged 15 to 49 years experienced physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner in the previous 12 months.

Proportion of girls aged 15 to 19 who have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries where the practice is concentrated, 1985-2015 (percentage)
Note: The figures are population-weighted averages based on comparable data from 30 countries. The values for 2015 refer to the latest available data collected between 2010 and 2014.

Women in developing countries spend four times as many hours on unpaid work as men

In every region, women and girls do the bulk of unpaid work, including caregiving and household tasks such as cooking and cleaning. Women report that on average they spend 19 per cent of their time each day on unpaid labour versus 8 per cent for men. The responsibilities of unpaid care and domestic work, combined with paid labour, mean that women and girls work longer hours than men and boys and have less time for rest, self-care, learning and other activities.

Proportion of time spent on unpaid and paid work in selected countries, women and men, 2000-2014 (percentage of time spent per day)
Note: Data are based on time-use surveys conducted between 2000 and 2014 in 59 countries, 30 from developing regions and 29 from developed regions.

Women hold only 23 per cent of parliamentary seats worldwide

The proportion of seats held by women in single or lower houses of parliament rose to 23 per cent in 2016. This represents an average increase of 0.6 percentage points a year since 2006 and a rise of 6 percentage points over a decade. Slow progress in this area contrasts with more rapid developments for women in parliamentary leadership positions. In 2016, the number of women speakers of parliament increased from 43 to 49 (out of the 273 posts globally); women accounted for 18 per cent of all speakers of parliament in January 2016.

Proportion of seats held by women in single or lower houses of national parliament, 2016 (percentage)