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Innovation for gender equality

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“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is anything but ‘business as usual’. We need not incremental change, but bold change.

We need an earthquake that will tilt the system altogether, because little and incremental steps will not give us the world that we want.”

—Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director, UN Women

Achieving the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – and notably the goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment – requires transformative shifts, integrated approaches and new solutions. Based on current trajectories, existing efforts will not suffice to achieve a Planet 50-50 by 2030.

However, innovations in policies, management, finance, science and technology that disrupt “business as usual” are increasingly recognized as a way to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs for all. From mobile banking ventures that facilitate women’s entrepreneurship to e-learning platforms that take classrooms to individuals, social innovations have the potential to serve as powerful tools to break trends and increase awareness, access and the availability of opportunities. This is particularly true for women experiencing marginalization due to their age, ethnicity, education, income, disability, location or migratory status.

At the same time, it is increasingly clear that technology and innovation can be rejected; that they can create new, unforeseen problems of their own; and that they do not benefit all equally. Not only are women under-represented across core innovation sectors, including science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but new technology brings risks of bias and possibilities for misuse, creating new human rights challenges for the 21st century.

Recognizing the unprecedented opportunities as well as the challenges of rapid innovation and technological development for gender equality and women’s empowerment, as well as the importance of innovation to benefit women and men equally, UN Women has included innovation as one of the “drivers of change” in its Strategic Plan 2018-2021.

This brochure showcases some of UN Women’s thoughts and practices around innovation that could accelerate gender equality and women’s empowerment. The examples range from pilot programmes with marginalized beneficiaries to partnerships with startups; from frontier technologies to non-tech interventions that challenge mindsets; and from procedural improvements to capacity-building. We hope you will enjoy the reading, and that our sharing will elicit valuable insight and future collaboration.