SDG 5: Changing People’s Behaviours, Norms & Beliefs

Content Manager • 5 July 2018
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This blog is written by Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro, President and CEO of Global Fund for Women.

Social change is complex and dynamic, one doesn’t get there working within linear relationships between input and outcomes or addressing only one issue and not the other.

      Gender equality today has moved from the back seat to the forefront of global and local debates and it is now a global mandate agreed upon by nations in the 2030 Global Compact of Sustainable Development Goals. Narrowing the global gender gap in work would not only be equitable in the broadest sense but could double the contribution of women to global GDP growth between 2014 and 2025. Delivering that impact, however, will require tackling gender equality in society. The two most comprehensive studies, the World Economic Forum’s 10-year study of gender equality (Jan 2016) and McKinsey’s Global Institute Report (Sept 2015), assembled remarkable resources to address these issues. They identified over 75 best practices to bridge the gender gap that clusters into six categories:

  • Financial incentives and support
  • Technology and infrastructure
  • The creation of economic opportunity
  • Capacity building
  • Advocacy and shaping attitudes
  • Laws, policies and regulations

      Global Fund for Women is an advocate and champion for gender equality concerned about long-term systemic change. We get money and attention where it will do the most good in the fight for gender equality. Our mantra is “Every woman and girl is safe, strong, powerful and heard. No Exceptions.”

      How do we do it? We are in partnerships with women’s organizations and women’s funds in local communities. Through networking, we find, fund and amplify courageous work of women, building social movements and challenging the status quo.  We support organisations that are defending the civil, political, economic, social, cultural, and sexual rights of women and girls.

      Social change is complex and dynamic, one doesn’t get there working within linear relationships between input and outcomes or addressing only one issue and not the other. This is the reason why the Sustainable Development Goals matter- they call upon solution-oriented, inclusive and integrative multi-stakeholder partnerships.

      To achieve gender equality requires changing people’s behaviours, norms and beliefs which have been socialised over decades. This is harder than rocket science.  Had it been easy, we should be halfway to achieving equality – but we are not.

      Take India for example - an extremely complex nation when it comes to gender issues.  This is a nation that has produced some of the most visible and successful women and men, has gender-sensitive laws, but at the same time, gender equality is nowhere in the vicinity because gender-based social norms are very deeply ingrained in society.

      Laws on paper do not necessarily reflect equalities and those expected to enforce laws often show impunity. Laws can be present and full of restrictions. Restrictions have far-reaching impact –including limited employment opportunities for women, access to education and economic opportunities such as equal pay for equal work. Laws don’t matter if they are by design, unjust. So what has this to do with gender equality? Everything. Unjust laws oppress women and girls. Impunity oppresses women and girls. Equality of opportunity allows women to make choices that are best for them, their families and their communities.  Opportunities for women are not equal where legal gender differences are prevalent.

      At the Global Fund for Women, we look for meaningful contributions of our grantees but not for attribution of our specific grants to a policy change or even cultural change that we aspire to see happen. The core belief of the Global Fund for Women is that the women we fund are closest to the problems in their communities and they are in the best position to solve them. A true measure of success for our mantra “champions of gender equality” isn’t always and only about “big” things or large statistical gains. In human rights, success can be small yet significant. Success can be seen through processes indicating steps in the right direction.  What Eleanor Roosevelt said in 1958 is still true today: “Where after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small, that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world… such are places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity, without discrimination”  (cited in the Global Fund Annual Report 1990-91).


Photo credit: Meena Kadri