In Summary
  • Gender and geography work against sustainable economic development and equality.
  • Such grim observation can be changed if there are many more leaders who take a stand on the issues they care about and innovate in their communities.
  • Women are still lagging behind in many aspects and governments must review their policies to include women in their development agenda.
  • Data and technology have the potential of uplifting communities out of poverty.

Did you know that gender and geography work against sustainable economic development and equality? The 2019 Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s annual Goalkeepers Report says where you are born and if you are a woman predicts your future chances of succeeding.

This grim observation can be changed if there are many more Goalkeepers. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation defines Goalkeepers as leaders who take a stand on the issues they care about and innovate in their communities to achieve the Global Goals.

The Foundation, therefore, has endeavoured to monitor on an annual basis the world’s progress towards the achievement of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The focus of the 2019 report is on “Examining Inequality”.

The report says that although fewer people than ever before live in extreme poverty around the world, some may never make it out of poverty. Leveraging on data, they plotted health and education as key components of human capital and established that “investments in human capital today help people increase their incomes tomorrow. But without human capital— that is, for those who are unhealthy and uneducated—it is virtually impossible to escape poverty.” Predictably, achieving zero poverty by 2030 will be a tall order for many countries especially in Africa. Other Goalkeepers like World Data Lab have numbers to show as indicated in the figure below.

Source: World Poverty Clock


The report details its findings with data highlighting what it refers to as layers of inequality and identifying every aspect of the layer that work against development. One of the key aspects the report identifies is gender, especially in Africa. On average girls in sub-Saharan Africa get two fewer years of schooling than boys and 21 percent of the girls are married before 18 as the graph below shows. In the end such discrepancies lead to wide inequalities as the same graph shows.

Source: Examining Inequality 2019 Report.

On gender we have buried our heads in the sand while hiding behind oppressive cultures that continue to undermine development. Women are three times as likely to work without pay as men. The value of the unpaid work is in excess of $10 trillion (Sh100 trillion). Although this is mostly in North Africa and Western Asia, sub-Saharan Africa also has a significant number of defaulters in paying women working as maids. In most cases the rich are the culprits. The report notes that inequality is what is making it more difficult to achieve the SDGs.

Women with less education, are likely to die as a result of maternal mortality, fail to understand the benefits of family planning and child mortality incidences as well as stunting of children is higher. For example, a child born in Chad is 55 times more likely to die than a child in Finland. Sometimes statistics become incomprehensible but once you dig deeper you begin to understand that the problem isn’t too far away from you. A 2015 policy brief, Reducing Maternal Deaths in Kenya, shows that a woman bearing a child in North Eastern Kenya is 10 times more likely to die than one giving birth in Nairobi.

Page 1 of 2