Leveraging Space Technologies to Achieve SDG 5 & SDG 10 – Gender Equality & Reduced Inequalities

The Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG 5) aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Granting women and girls equal rights, opportunities to live free without discrimination including workplace discrimination or any violence is the fifth of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations in 2015. The Sustainable Development Goal 10 (SDG 10) aims at reducing inequality within and among countries. Furthermore, SDG 10 calls for reducing inequalities in income as well as those based on age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, economic or other statuses within a country. Both goals are interwoven, and as such, progress in one would translate to progress in the other.

To effectively monitor the progress of SDG 5, the United Nations developed nine targets and 14 indicators. Six of the targets are outcome-oriented while the remaining three are the means of achieving these targets.

The six target-oriented targets include:

  • Ending all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere;
  • Eliminating all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation;
  • Eliminating all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation;
  • Recognising and evaluating 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;
  • Ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life; and 
  • Ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences.

The three means of achieving these targets include:

  • Undertaking 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;
  • Enhancing the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women; and
  • Adopting and strengthening sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels.

The SGD 10 on the other hand has ten targets to be achieved by 2030. In addition, progress towards targets will be measured by indicators. The first seven targets are outcome targets and the remaining three are the means of achieving these targets.

The six target-oriented targets include:

  • Progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40% of the population at a rate higher than the national average;
  • empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status;
  • Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard;
  • Adopt policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies, and progressively achieve greater equality;
  • Improve the regulation and monitoring of global financial markets and institutions and strengthen the implementation of such regulations;
  • Ensure enhanced representation and voice for developing countries in decision-making in global international economic and financial institutions in order to deliver more effective, credible, accountable and legitimate institutions; and
  • Facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies.

The three means of achieving these targets include:

  • Implement the principle of special and differential treatment for developing countries, in particular least developed countries, in accordance with World Trade Organization agreements;
  •  Encourage official development assistance and financial flows, including foreign direct investment, to States where the need is greatest, in particular, least developed countries, African countries, small island developing States and landlocked developing countries, in accordance with their national plans and programmes; and
  • reduce to less than 3% the transaction costs of migrant remittances and eliminate remittance corridors with costs higher than 5%. 
How Space Technologies can help achieve SDGs 5 & 10
  • Access to quality education even in remote and isolated communities;
  • Connectivity in remote and underserved regions;
  • Support for female entrepreneurship, through access to training, soft infrastructure, information and safety in the work environment;
  • Career development opportunities, often within STEM; and
  • Security for female students especially in remote African countries.
How Astronomy and Space Science initiatives are helping to achieve SDG 5 and SDG 10

Despite the global cry for gender equality in all walks of life, women and young girls, especially in remote and underrepresented regions – still face challenges in their educational pursuits. For example, in Kenya, 70.4% of girls (15-19yrs) achieve some sort of primary education, while only 4.5% complete secondary education (World Bank, 2012). Furthermore, only 3.5% of women (aged 15+) have completed tertiary education (World Bank, 2015). This is largely due to socio-economic challenges like teenage pregnancies, early marriages, Female genital mutilation (FGM), poverty and lack of mentorship. Additionally, rural areas lack outreach, leadership, & mentorship programmes at the critical primary-to-secondary transition, which leads to high dropout rates.

As a result, the Elimisha Msichana Elimisha Jamii na Astronomia (EMEJA) project focuses on addressing these issues in rural Kenya via targeted outreach programmes, mentorship and targeted Astro-STEM (Astronomy – Science, Technology,  Engineering and Mathematics) workshops and scholarships opportunities. Moreover, EMEJA mentors keep track of their mentees throughout the secondary schools through face-to-face or phone calls every three to four months. This scheme is particularly for EMEJA mentees transitioning between primary-to-secondary education.

Another method of improving girls’ child education is through the implementation of policies built on what students actually accomplish and if good performance by students gets rewarded. The Astro Molo Mhlaba Project, a Khayelitsha-based (Cape Town) project focuses on the problems of inclusivity and diversity in the South African education sector by engaging the most underrepresented group – black girls from underserved communities – at various stages of their education.

The project launched through a EUR 9,000 grant from the Office of Astronomy for Development, in December 2018, has inspired and supported black girls in Khayelitsha to pursue a career in STEM through its many innovative, accessible, fun, inclusive and interactive astronomy and sustainable public outreach events. Furthermore, the project aims to leverage the fascinating world of astronomy, which easily captures the imagination of students (and adults) of all ages, as a tool to inspire and encourage black girls from underserved communities to pursue careers in STEM.

Also, the African Astronomical Society (AfAS) established the African Network of Women in Astronomy (AfNWA) to guarantee female participation at all levels of the new and important developments within the industry. AfNWA’s main objectives include improving the status of women in science in Africa and using astronomy to inspire more girls to study STEM courses.

Career development opportunities, often within STEM 

The SDGs are intertwined and as such, to realise a positive result from SDGs 5 & 10, they must be addressed collectively, as a unit. As a result, significant success in the SDGs that address poverty (SDG 1), hunger (SDG 2), health (SDG 3) and education (SDG 4), would cause a positive ripple effect that would be felt in the global effort for gender equality.

Moreover, the increasing growth across all sectors of the African space industry has been the right push to get women and young girls alike to pursue space science and related training to develop the right skills to join the industry workforce. For example, the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) created the space4Women programme. The programme focuses on empowering women and young girls by creating access to education materials and mentoring from experienced specialists in different fields. Moreover, the initiative creates a bond between the female role models in the industry and the female enthusiasts.  

Also, HeHe Innovation Academy (Rwanda) intends to produce the next generation of female innovators in Africa. They are addressing this by devising innovative ways of showing young girls the impact of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and space sciences. 

Access to quality education in remote and isolated communities

Africa lacks the skilled human resources, especially women, that would enable it to take advantage of several technological advancements. The continent’s ability to provide good health and fight diseases; protect its environment and natural resources and develop new technologies depends on its population’s scientific knowledge and skills. Additionally, the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) requires human resources skilled in STEM fields. Therefore, women must participate in the 4IR, so there would be diverse technological innovations addressing societal challenges.

However, the World Economic Forum (WEF), in its 2020 Global Gender Gap report, projects that it will take sub-Saharan Africa 95 years and North Africa 140 years to close their respective gender gaps. Furthermore, the report also states that only 26% of professionals employed in data and artificial intelligence roles were women. Furthermore, young girls are too often out of school and learning in the world’s poorest countries. This keeps them from realising their potential.

Thus, Avanti Communications partnered with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) on the Girls’ Education Awareness Program (GEAP). This partnership will address barriers to girls’ education. The partnership will consequently address this through targeted, context-specific awareness and information campaigns. The initiative uses social marketing to drive awareness and behaviour change around social norms keeping girls from school. The initial phase will focus on Kenya and then expand to other key countries. These countries include Ghana, Zimbabwe. 

Also, the Space Science System Research Institute (SSSRI) hopes to train 1000 girls in Basic and Senior High Schools across the country in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics. The training aims to spark new interests, make real-life connections, and fight stereotypes and obstacles facing young girls and women in Ghana.

Security for female students especially in remote African countries

There is much more to ensuring girls’ education than simply enrolling them in schools. It also includes ensuring that girls learn and feel safe within and outside the school environment; learn the socio-emotional and life skills necessary to navigate and adapt to a changing world; contribute to their communities and the world and protect them from all forms of gender-based violence. Also, in countries where female children are targeted by insurgents, it will be difficult to convince them to go to school without first improving their security.

For example in Nigeria, Boko Haram started targeting schools in 2010, killing and abducting women and female children alike. By 2015, Amnesty International estimated that at least 2,000 women and girls had been abducted by the terrorist group. However, since the group’s disheartening attack in April 2014, where they kidnapped 276 female students from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria, they have gone to kidnap several hundred more young female students across several states in Nigeria.

However, in curbing these acts, Earth observation satellites can be equipped with the latest imaging technology to ensure that they can assist in security operations and emergency response. Thus, these EO satellites can produce high-quality images that can help security operatives understand the terrain better; see its changing nature daily, and therefore plan and carry out their operations more efficiently. In addition, they do reconnaissance like communication eavesdropping, photo surveillance and radar imaging using synthetic aperture radar at night or through the thick cloud cover to get clear pictures. 

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