background image

SDG 5 and the never-ending struggle: unmasking the patriarchy, inequality, and environmental devastation

author image

By Susana Gago

· 6 min read

The failure of Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG 5) to achieve its intended impact is emblematic of the persistent challenges in dismantling deeply ingrained gender inequalities. While SDG 5 sought to address gender discrimination and empower women and girls globally, its implementation has been hindered by the endurance of patriarchal norms and systems that remain resistant to change. Despite its promise of transformation, SDG 5 has struggled to catalyze meaningful shifts in societal attitudes and power structures. The goal's limited focus on standalone initiatives and legislative changes often overlooks the intricate web of cultural, economic, and social factors that perpetuate gender disparities. As a result, the systemic transformation required to uproot gender inequality has proven elusive, and the failure of SDG 5 underscores the urgency of confronting and dismantling the deeply entrenched patriarchal systems that persist in stifling progress.

Criticism of the SDGs

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been criticized for their disconnected and reductionist approach, which fails to address the intricate web of interdependencies that underlie global challenges. The reduction of complex issues to a checklist of isolated goals oversimplifies the realities faced by societies worldwide. This reductionism overlooks the systemic nature of problems such as poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation. By compartmentalizing these issues into separate categories, the SDGs neglect the fundamental truth that they are often deeply intertwined and cannot be effectively tackled in isolation.

Furthermore, the outcomes of the SDGs echo a larger narrative of disappointment in the face of entrenched patriarchal and colonial structures. The origins of these goals are rooted in a global system that has historically favored the interests of powerful nations and perpetuated inequalities. The very structures that gave rise to the SDGs are the ones that continue to uphold a status quo where power imbalances persist, and marginalized communities are further marginalized. The top-down approach taken in crafting the goals often ignores the diverse perspectives and lived experiences of those most affected by these challenges, perpetuating a cycle of paternalistic intervention that fails to foster genuine empowerment and equitable development.

In essence, the SDGs, despite their well-intentioned aims, have fallen short due to their inability to address the complex interplay of historical, cultural, and social factors that underlie the issues they seek to address. 

Fixing the approach

To truly effect transformative change, it is essential to recognize and challenge the deep-seated systems of power and privilege that continue to shape our world. Without such introspection and a commitment to dismantling these structures, the SDGs are proven to be yet another testament to the inadequacies of a system that has, for too long, perpetuated injustice and inequality.

While SDG 5 was intended to be a beacon of progress, its effectiveness has been hampered by a stark reality: the prevailing patriarchal systems that govern our world remain largely unchallenged. These systems perpetuate a power imbalance that has allowed for the continuation of inequalities, both between genders and within societies. 

Moreover, the broader context of environmental degradation and planetary devastation cannot be separated from the conversation about SDG 5. The exploitation of nature and the subjugation of women are intertwined in a destructive dance that reflects the very foundations of a system built upon greed, arrogance, and ignorance. The disregard for the environment is mirrored in the disregard for the rights and well-being of women and marginalized communities. This interconnectedness underscores the need for systemic change that goes beyond isolated goals like SDG 5.

It's clear that real change requires more than token gestures and superficial policy shifts. It demands a fundamental reevaluation of our societal values and structures. The silent compliance with outdated norms and the failure to challenge the status quo has only perpetuated the cycle of inequality and environmental harm. To truly address the failures of SDG 5, we must confront the root causes that sustain these oppressive systems.

The challenges ahead

The ongoing struggle against these systems is not without its challenges. Overcoming entrenched power dynamics, reshaping cultural norms, and dismantling the structures that have enabled such inequality and devastation is a monumental task. However, history has shown that change is possible when voices rise in unison to demand justice and equality.

As we reflect on the shortcomings of SDG5, let us remember that transformation is not an easy path. It requires a collective effort to challenge the very foundations of a system that has perpetuated harm. The traits of greed, arrogance, and ignorance that have been instrumental in maintaining the status quo, must be replaced by values rooted in empathy, cooperation, intelligence, and regeneration. Only then can we hope to forge a future where women, nature, and all beings are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.

Policies emerging from corrupt institutions, often carry an inherent vulnerability that threatens their potential for success. Corruption undermines the very essence of governance, eroding trust, accountability, and transparency. 

When policies are devised within such tainted environments, they risk being shaped by hidden agendas and self-serving interests rather than the genuine welfare of the people they are meant to serve. 

This compromises the integrity of the policy-making process, sowing seeds of doubt among the public and stakeholders. As a result, even well-intentioned policies can become entangled in a web of manipulation and deceit, making it exceedingly difficult for them to achieve meaningful and lasting impact.

Moreover, the effectiveness of policies forged within corrupt institutions is further impeded by a lack of enforcement (as the non-binding Paris Agreement or the much-celebrated SDGs) and genuine commitment to implementation. 

Corrupt systems prioritize short-term gains over long-term sustainability, leading to a failure to allocate resources adequately, monitor progress, and hold those responsible for implementation accountable. 

Consequently, policies that could potentially address critical issues such as gender inequality, environmental degradation, and social justice end up being merely symbolic gestures, unable to bring about the transformative change they were intended for.

Without a foundation of integrity and a commitment to ethical governance, policies from corrupt institutions are poised to fall short of their intended goals, perpetuating a cycle of disappointment and disillusionment.

What we can do

As individuals identifying as women, it's not just our inherent right but also our obligation to assume leadership roles in bettering the world. The task before us requires bold imagination—to envision new systems and different ways of living and then to feel sufficiently empowered to make these visions a reality. Our focus needs to be resilient and heart-centered, always aware of the ripple effects of our decisions on our communities, families, and the planet as a whole. 

In practice, this means embracing localized, decentralized and bioregional governance models and celebrating multiculturalism. It's about fostering networks among local communities to create interlocking systems geared toward regional regeneration. Our leadership journey is uniquely informed by a millennia-old matrilineal heritage. Being in positions of leadership honors the legacies of strong women who have come before us, and sidestepping the limitations imposed by outdated institutions is key.

The time is now to fully engage with the multi-faceted dimensions of human potential: wisdom, abundance, healing, love, wealth, and perseverance. Through these, we can 'rematriate' the land, fostering its regeneration through nature-based solutions and thoughtful practices. We don't need to wait for permission; we already possess the tools, gifts and perspectives needed to be the true catalysts of change and make a lasting impact.

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

Did you enjoy this illuminem voice? Support us by sharing this article!
author photo

About the author

Susana Gago is the founder of UNAKTI, a female-led ecosystem dedicated to cultivating high-value medicinal and aromatic plants, and transforming them into pure raw materials for the Cosmetic, Health & Wellness industries. As part of her job at UNAKTI, she collaborates with local women farmers and communities, empowering them through regenerative medicinal forest cultivation to step up into leadership roles within their families and communities. 

Other illuminem Voices

Related Posts

You cannot miss it!

Weekly. Free. Your Top 10 Sustainability & Energy Posts.

You can unsubscribe at any time (read our privacy policy)