17 weeks to Davos. 17 global goals to achieve a sustainable future. 17 blog posts exploring the UN’s vision for humankind. Here is number 5.

Global Goal #5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Gender equality is a hot topic in Hollywood these days. Sandra Bullock can’t find challenging scripts so she’s asked her agent to start sending her scripts meant for men. And she’s quite happy that inequality in pay between actors and actresses was brought to the public’s attention during the Sony hack a while back.

While Sandra is fighting for equal pay and better roles in Hollywood, there are millions of women all over the globe who are experiencing similar or more extreme gender inequality.  The majority of these women don’t have the clout that Sandra has. In fact, they sometimes have no voice at all.

Giving women a voice in the fight for their rights

This is where the United Nations (UN) and its Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #5 come into play. Goal #5 is specifically targeted towards ending discrimination against women and girls throughout the world. As the UN notes, “Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world.”

If the world succeeds in achieving this goal by the 2030 target date, women would no longer experience extreme violence, such as trafficking and sexual exploitation. Harmful practices like forced marriage and female genital mutilation would end. Women would have universal access to sexual and reproductive health, and they would have equal rights to economic resources. And technology would promote the empowerment of women everywhere.

Empowering women one step at a time

Progress is being made in all aspects of women’s and girls’ lives – including the area of economic and business empowerment. Through initiatives like the ones here, women are starting to gain the most basic rights, such as access to the Internet, financial inclusion, and entrepreneurial empowerment.

Closing the gender gap in Internet usage. A recent report by the World Wide Web Foundation found that women in poor urban areas of developing countries are 50% less likely to use the Internet than men. The report also found that women are 30-50% less likely to use the Internet to increase their income or participate in public life.

Lack of Internet access is a way of keeping women systematically underserved, according to NetHope, an organization that creates collaborations between nonprofit organizations and technology companies to serve populations in developing countries. NetHope and its partners created the Women and the Web Alliance, which introduced more than 600,000 15- to 25-year-old Kenyan and Nigerian women and girls to the Internet to advance their social and economic empowerment. In addition, thanks to this initiative, 540,000 women now have access to online e-learning and mentoring programs.

Eradicating financial exclusion. Data from the World Bank suggests that approximately 2.5 billion people do not have a formal account at a financial institution and 47% of these underserved people are women. To counteract this kind of inequality, Compartamos Banco opened its doors in 1990 to provide financing to female small business owners with low incomes. Today, over 90% of the bank’s 2.8 million clients in Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru are women. With these tools such as loans, savings accounts, insurance, and financial education, the bank hopes to give the women it serves the tools they need to have a better quality of life.

Enabling entrepreneurial empowerment. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Ghana is the world’s third-biggest shea producer after Nigeria and Mali. Producing shea nut products can be an arduous task, especially without the right education or the right financial tools. Such was the case in northern Ghana, where generations of rural women manually processed these nuts into butter for cooking and health products, until several years ago, when the StarShea Network was formed.

The network, now with more than 10,000 members, is a federation of rural women’s groups in northern Ghana that harvest and process shea nuts and butter. It provides information technology, education, and microfinancing to the women so they can conduct business independently and sustainably. Through mobile technology, these women receive transparency on the current market prices so they can sell their products competitively to global customers. They also have the technology to scan personalized barcode labels on each shea nut sack to track individual production and storage details.

With 62 metric tons of shea butter sold in its first year, StarShea Ltd., the commercial arm of the network, is now one of the top four exporters in Ghana.

SAP – and even Hollywood – is taking action

It appears that Sandra Bullock’s fight for equality caused a stir in Hollywood. Several executives recently convened and initiated an array of tactics aimed at eliminating discrimination. The plan includes bias education; gender parity identifications; training and fellowship programs for female film and TV directors; and ambassadors who will spread the word.

SAP is also doing its part in eliminating gender inequality in support of its vision and purpose, which is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. For instance, SAP played a key role in the above-mentioned StarShea network. We teamed up with Positive Planet (formerly PlaNet Finance) to form the network in an effort to improve living conditions and make the supply chain more transparent and efficient for the women in the federation.

SAP is also committed to drive gender diversity within its own workforce. Our CEO, Bill McDermott, signed the Women’s Empowerment Principles CEO Statement and our company has a multitude of programs and activities aim at supporting female talents. We are increasing the number of women in leadership positions through initiatives such as a Web-based virtual women’s professional growth series. To date, the programs in this series have reached over 5,000 female employees in 43 countries in 2015 alone.

We are committed, and we hope you are too.

The post was originally published by Will Ritzrau and myself on the Digitalist here To learn more about the 17 Global Goals and how you can help make the world a better place, follow the 17 Weeks to Davos blog series.

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