Intergenerational Equity and Gender Equality

By: Alanya Dhalla

Intergenerational equity has been studied in multiple fields including philosophy, economics, governance, and international law (Asheim, 2010; Spijkers, 2018). It can be defined as “concept of fair treatment of different generations” (‘Intergenerational Equity’, 2017), or used to question the role present people play in choosing what world gets left for future generations (Spijkers, 2018). Although intergenerational equity (IE) refers to the inclusion of typically marginalized, or ignored age groups, including older people, youth, children, and future generations, this blog primarily focuses on young people and future generations. 

Before beginning this blog, I believe it is necessary to acknowledge the gender-exclusive language that exists within Agenda 2030, and specifically within Goal 5. Although this agenda is set, it is critical that we include everyone who self-identifies as a women, as well as non-binary individuals who face discrimination and gendered oppression when implementing Goal 5. 

The topic of intergenerational equity is critical when talking about Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality. This importance arises because of the connection and inseparable nature between the two topics. Gendered relations structure every point throughout life, from birth to old age; furthermore, current impacts to gender equality will affect the livelihoods of future generations (Collins, 2012).

The language of intergenerational equity is evident not only through the overarching goal, but also throughout the targets and indicators. SDG 5 is titled “gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”; this in itself highlights intergenerational equity as young girls are explicitly stated and therefore, the role they play in achieving the goal is recognized. 

The United Nations has outlined 9 targets and 14 indicators within Goal 5. Within these targets and indicators intergenerational equity is most often implied through the language of “women and girls”, indicating the inclusion of children and youth. This is evident in numerous targets and indicators including (but not limited to):

5.1: End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere

5.2: Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation 

5.3: Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation

Intergenerational equity is also indirectly addressed in several targets through language of engagement and empowerment. By promoting more equitable societies which allow for equal power distribution, future generations of women will face less gender-based inequality. This language is evident in (but not limited to) the following targets:

5.4: Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate

5.5: Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life 

5.A: Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws 

In addition, Target 5.6 refers to future generations by addressing women’s rights to sexual and reproductive health.

Intergenerational Equity and Gender Equality in Canada

All across the country gender equality programs are already working on promoting intergenerational equity. One example of this is being implemented through the Calgary Women’s Centre. The Calgary Women’s Centre is inclusive to all people who self-identify as a woman. It works to support basic needs, social connections, and strong community. 

Responding to a community desire to have a space for girls to build upon their leadership and activism skills, the Calgary Women’s Centre launched a girls program which includes ongoing programming for girls in grades 5-12. The space allows for various generations of women to learn and grow from one another.

The promotion of intergenerational equity through the Calgary Women’s Centre’s Girls Program, as well as other initiatives across the country, furthers all the targets and indicators of Goal 5 by developing self-esteem, leadership skills, and encouraging critical thinking surrounding systems of power. Power-sharing between generations allows young girls to understand and resist the power structures around them, form strong relationships to support each other, and develop confidence and resourcefulness. This illustrates the direct and powerful connection linking gender equality and equality between generations. As more of the targets within Goal 5 are met, we improve intergenerational equity by advancing the rights and opportunities for current women and future generations.

Furthermore, Indigenous women continue to be some of the most marginalized people in Canadian society. This stems from both historical and ongoing colonialism, systemic racism and intergenerational trauma. Canada has recently released its Interim Agenda for 2030. Throughout this report, the need to center ‘disadvantaged populations’, which includes Indigenous communities and women, is heavily emphasized (Government of Canada, 2019). However, simply stating this in the agenda is inadequate. The Government of Canada needs to commit to these points through strong action, and solid accountability measures. This is essential to ensure that no one is left behind when implementing Canada’s Agenda 2030. 

Watch the video of presentation:

References:

Asheim, G. B. (2010). Intergenerational equity. Annual Review of Economics, 2(1), 197-222. doi:10.1146/annurev.economics.102308.124440

Collins, M. (2012). Beyond the patchwork: Towards a life-cycle approach to women’s rights and gender equality In B. Triems, & C. Greboval European Women’s Voice Spring 2012, p. 2-5. 

Government of Canada. (2019). Towards Canada’s 2030 Agenda National Strategy: Interim Document. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/esdc-edsc/documents/programs/agenda-2030/7781_EmploymentSocialDevelopment_2030-ENv5.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1NWuVVgsvJcd9dWLx1CY2VkNOo8-64u84qxUVbg0hjfNV9HokOvEzizFU.

Intergenerational equity (2017). (5th ed.) Oxford University Press.

Spijkers, O. (2018). Intergenerational equity and the sustainable development goals. Sustainability, 10(11), 3836. doi:10.3390/su10113836.

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