ESD, Global Goals (SDGs) – what exactly are they? (Part 4)


Goal No. 5 Gender Equality

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

“I do not wish them to have power over men; but over themselves.” Mary Wallstonecraft

The greatest luck I had in my life was to have my wonderful grandfather, who was and remains my hero. One important lifelong wisdom he gave me along the way was:

“You should never depend on a man, you have to be able to take care of yourself. “

In my family women were always treated equal, they went to school, they had jobs and the household was shared. There was never any discussion about these things. In addition, my family, especially my grandfather, taught me about cross-gender (if you think in stereotypes) skills such as: artisan, painters, fishing etc. It was important to him that one had a range of lifelong skills and abilities.

I am very grateful for these opportunities and the freedom of choice. Unfortunately, nowadays many girls and women in this world still do not have the same opportunities that I was able to have.

Two well-known women who had terrible experiences growing up – Waris Dirie and Malala Yousafzai – campaign for the rights of women and girls worldwide.

Waris Dirie was only 5 years old when she suffered from genital mutilation in the form of infibulation (genitals are sewn up, there is only a small pin-sized opening for urinating, Wikipedia). After being forced to marry at the age of 13, she fled from her family, managed to succeed through many of life’s challenges, and was eventually discovered as a model in London. She has been appointed Human Rights Activist and special ambassador in the fight against female genital mutilation by the UN Secretary-General. There is an estimate from the WHO that 8,000 girls face these atrocities daily. (Desert Flower Foundation)

Another example is Malala Yousafzai who was born in Pakistan in 1997 and already at 11 years of age committed herself in fighting for the rights of women and children, especially for the right to an education.  Due to her being an activist, on October the 8th, 2012 Malala was shot in the head on when she was on her way home from the school in Swat. Luckily, she survived and was treated at a specialist hospital in the UK. Since then, she is considered a symbol for worldwide freedom and education. (

These are only two examples in a world where women have half as many opportunities and possibilities compared to men. For this reason, it is important to be informed and have a worldwide overview with the Global Gender Gap Report 2016 of the World Economic Forum (WEF). The Global Index is divided into four areas: 1. Economic participation and opportunity, 2. Education, 3. Health and chance of survival and 4. Political participation. (World Economic Forum)

Global Gender Gap Report (In the table 100% = no differences)

Global Index

Rank /%
CountryEconomic Participation and Opportunity %Educational Attainment %Health and Survival %Political Empowerment %
1 (87,4)Iceland80,61009771,9
2 (84,5)Finland79,41009860,7
3 (84,2)Norway81,810097,457,6
4 (81,5)Sweden80,299,9 97,448,6
5 (80,0)Ruanda81,795,897,245,2
6 (79,7)Ireland70,910097,950,2
7 (78,6)Philippines78,010098,038,6
8 (78,6)Slovenia78,410097,338,5
9 (78,1)New Zealand76,599,997,039,0
10 (78,9)Nicaragua63,210098,050,6
12 (76,8)Burundi86,591,797,431,4
13 (76,6)Germany69,196,697,942,8
139 (58,7)Iran35,797,597,14,7
140 (58,7)Chad66,761,896,89,3
141 (58,3)Saudi Arabia32,896,196,67,7
142 (56,7)Syria27,396,397,06,3
143 (55,6)Pakistan32,081,196,712,7
144 (51,6)Yemen35,272,096,72,6

There is still a lot that needs to be done to ensure that girls and women around the world have equal rights, therefore the UN has set the following goals for Goal No. 5:

  • 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 decisionmaking in political, economic and public life
  • Ensure 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
  • 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
  • Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women
  • Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels


There is another teaching unit for applying this topic in a lesson:

In some regions where there is a lack of water supply, many girls and women often can´t attend school or work in an area of their choice, as they are responsible for the supply of drinking water and have to walk many miles every day. For them, this means very little opportunities for their future (helles-köpfchen)

With this fact, we are already at the next global goal and again have to consider that the individual goals are dependent on each other.


Clean Water and Sanitation

Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

The third part of my blog series, I already mentioned Goal No. 3  Good Health and Well-Being, meaning one significantly reducing death caused by water pollution. Water is a necessity for all living creatures on this planet – for humans, animals, plants etc. Without water, there would be no life on earth, water is also needed for irrigation and the production of goods. In Germany, our daily polluted water is purified by gigantic sewage treatment plants, but that is not the case in every country. In many countries there is a lack of water or the waters are heavily contaminated. In total, more than 2.5 billion people suffer from a shortage in water supply.

According to a study by the International Institute for Water Management (IWMI), 98% of the shortage of water is caused by humans. Especially this shortage comes from the vast amounts of water needed for agriculture, industrial goods and industry, as well as the heavy environmental impact of fertilizers, pesticides and chemicals in the textile industry, most of which are unfiltered into the rivers and lakes.

Especially the rich developed countries are not aware that they have a large supply of water. For example, in order to produce one kilo of beef, one needs 20,000 liters of water. For one kilogram of grain, one needs 1,500 liters of water. Every German uses around 122 l of water daily for showering, cleaning etc. In addition to this, around 1000l of water a day is used for the industry and power plants. (see Quaschning, 2010, pp. 88f) Worldwide, there is 80% of water which is not filtered and therefore, especially children get sick from this polluted water.


From these points, comes Goal No.6:

  •  By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all
  • By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations
  • By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally
  • By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity
  • By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate
  • By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes
  • By 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies
  • Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management

Surely with these facts, many ask themselves to what extent can they personally contribute? After all, people in developed countries have enough water and taking one less shower does not directly mean that people on the other side of the world then have more water available. This fact may be true, but it is important to be aware of the water consumption and especially for the hidden consumption we are not always aware of. In fact, we can all help people in regions with water shortages. One needs to think about every product that we use which requires water to be produced in any way, whether it being the production of tea, how our clothes are manufactured or in agriculture for irrigation.  When we are all aware of this, one can re-think of ways to save water. Maybe one can start by just testing your water footprint? (Waterfootprint)

More lesson resources:

The next global goals will be explored in the next blog.