Gender and Sustainable Development: Bridging the Gap with Digital Inclusion.

Carol Ndosi
3 min readSep 1, 2023

*This article is a part two follow up of an article I wrote in 2019 — ‘Why Gender Matters in Development’.

Building upon the foundational understanding that gender should be synonymous with development, this article delves into an evolved discourse, focusing on the intersections of gender with sustainable development and digital inclusion. The backdrop of the current times, especially the increasing digitalization of society and the global push towards sustainable development goals, begs us to revisit and expand the lens of gender and development.

Where We Stand on Gender Equality and Equity

Despite concerted efforts by global bodies and nations alike, gender equality and equity remain elusive targets. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Gender Gap Report, “the global gender gap has been closed by 68.1%. At the current rate of progress, it will take 132 years to reach full parity. This represents a slight four-year improvement compared to the 2021 estimate (136 years to parity). However, it does not compensate for the generational loss which occurred between 2020 and 2021: according to trends leading up to 2020, the gender gap was set to close within 100 years.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, gains in gender equality were even reversed as women disproportionately shouldered caregiving and domestic labor, impacting their participation in formal employment.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Gender

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 5, are set to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. However, to ensure sustainable development, the gender lens needs to be applied across all 17 SDGs, not just Goal 5. For example, access to clean water and sanitation (Goal 6) impacts women’s educational opportunities, while responsible production and consumption (Goal 12) directly relates to unpaid labor mostly shouldered by women. Therefore, any development that seeks to be ‘sustainable’ must first be gender-responsive.

Digital Inclusion as a Facilitator

The digital divide exacerbates existing inequalities, including gender disparities. Yet, digital technology also presents an unparalleled opportunity to fast-track progress. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 69 per cent of men are using the Internet, compared with 63 per cent of women. This means there are 259 million more men than women using the Internet in 2022. This gap widens in least developed countries and rural areas. Bridging this gap could have multiplicative effects on achieving gender-related development goals.

Digital inclusion can lead to greater financial inclusion through digital banking and microloans, more educational opportunities through online courses, and increased participation in the digital economy, potentially negating some traditional barriers like mobility and safety.

Integration into Policy and Practice

Policies focusing on gender and development often function in silos. The need for interdisciplinary approaches has never been more evident. Combining insights from gender studies, sustainable development, and information technology can inform more holistic policy designs. For instance, integrating gender-responsive budgeting in digital infrastructure projects or applying gender analysis to sustainable urban planning can yield more equitable outcomes.

Moreover, in crafting such policies, the incorporation of diverse voices — especially from the Global South — is imperative. The absence of representation from women, especially marginalized women, in policy-making has been a substantial barrier to realizing truly inclusive development.

Public-Private Partnerships

Multi-stakeholder partnerships, including public-private partnerships, can play a crucial role in advancing these objectives. Tech companies can take the lead in gender-responsive practices, like closing the gender pay gap within the tech industry and developing digital solutions to reduce unpaid labor. Similarly, NGOs specializing in women’s rights can work closely with sustainability-focused organizations to embed gender concerns into sustainability projects.

Conclusively, the symbiotic relationship between gender, sustainable development, and digital inclusion suggests that addressing one can have a cascade effect on the others. The confluence of these areas — sustainable development policies that are gender-sensitive and digitally inclusive — can act as the cornerstone for building a more equitable future.

As we move forward, a participatory approach involving multiple stakeholders and an interdisciplinary methodology will be key to transforming the gender landscape in development. We are at a unique juncture, endowed with technological tools and global awareness, to reset the course of gender in development. The time to act is now, not just for the sake of women but for the collective progress of humanity.

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Carol Ndosi

🇹🇿 |Development Advocate|#GlobalGoalsTZ Champion|Feminist|MWF ‘16|Social & Biz Entrepreneur @MaMaendeleo @nyamachomafest @bongofesttz @thelaunchpadtz