Women in Space: Supporting the SDG on ‘Gender Equality’
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has been adopted by the United Nations in 2015 (1). It contains 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which address the key challenges of the twenty-first century. The aims are ending poverty with the strategy to improve health and education, to reduce inequality, and spur economic growth, all while countering climate change and working to preserve Earth’s environment.
The post focuses on the SDGs number 5 on ‘gender equality’ (2) and in particular on women’s empowerment. It targets seek to strengthen and support women at decision-making levels in leadership, in political participation and economic empowerment as well as to ensure them a life free of violence and elimination of harmful practices. According to SDGs knowledge platform (3), gender equality and women’s empowerment have advanced in recent decades. Nevertheless, gender equality represents a persistent challenge for the international community and the lack of equality remains a crucial obstacle to sustainable development, as gender and wealth disparities persist and hamper universal access to a quality higher education.
An element, which is of particular interest in the context of space sector, is the target 5b which call for enhancing the use technology, in particular information and communications, to promote the empowerment of women (4). Women have a crucial role to play to achieve all of the SDGs, and the access to science and technology is an important dimension to carry out the SDGs. Space-related science, technology, innovation and exploration will contribute to boost humankind and the sustainability of our planet in many areas such as agriculture, climate change, disaster response, transportation and communication. It is necessary to ensure that women and girls have access to these benefits.
In order to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) wished to address Sustainable Development Goal 5 in an all-inclusive manner and especially by promoting space technology in line with target 5b through the project ‘Space4Women’(5). Space exploration, science and technology can support women’s empowerment through the access to better education even in remote and isolated communities, to support women entrepreneurship with the access to training, information, and to provide more widely development opportunities in the space sector and in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) (6).
UNISPACE+50 (7), held in June 2018, has also been an important event to promote the inclusion of capacity-building by States to define new innovative and effective strategy for development with a special focus on women’s empowerment in developing countries.
According to UNOOSA Space4Women project (8), 29% of science researchers are women, although several developing nations are showing a positive trend; and women represented only 20% of space industry employees in 2016. The project aims to guarantee that the benefits of space reach women and girls, and that women and girls play an active and equal role in space science, technology, innovation and exploration.
I consider myself as a ‘woman in space’ and I think it is of utmost importance to contribute to the access to higher education for women for instance Master, PhD and Post-Doc fellowships in the field of space law, policy and engineering. In my diverse professional experiences, I noticed that the space field remains mostly a ‘men world’. Nevertheless, more and more women are interested in this topic and work in universities, in agencies, institutional organizations or industries. Women have to be fostered to participate to space sector which is a very fascinating and challenging environment for our future. Lastly, the space sector is expanding and diversifying offering thus new opportunities of work and studies with on one hand ‘traditional’ activities such as Earth observation, navigation and telecommunications ; and on the other hand, new generation of space missions as on-orbit servicing, space mining, and protection of lunar artefacts.
The opinions expressed in these blogs posts are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Centre for a Spacefaring Civilization or anyone else.
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(1) UNGA Res.A/RES/10/1, Transforming our world : the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 21 October 2015: https://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/1&Lang=E.
(2) Sustainable Development Goal 5, Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg5.