New Delhi: The average Dalit woman in India dies 14.6 years younger than women from higher castes. While identities, perceived or real, can increase risks of discrimination for an individual or a group, a woman’s caste in India increases her exposure to mortality because of poor sanitation and inadequate healthcare, says a UN report released on late Wednesday night.

“Those left furthest behind in society are often women and girls who experience multiple forms of disadvantage based on gender and other inequalities... This can lead to clustered deprivations where women and girls may be simultaneously disadvantaged in their access to quality education, decent work, health and well-being," states the report Turning promises into action: gender equality in the 2030 Agenda by UN Women.

Pointing to the “interaction of multiple identities and experiences of exclusion and subordination"—a concept introduced in the 1980s to capture the interaction of gender and race in shaping black women’s experiences in the US, the report says disadvantage is intensified for women and girls living at the intersection of inequalities.

Two years after the adoption of Agenda 2030, this report examines through a gender lens the progress and challenges in the implementation of all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, adopted by world leaders in 2015, from ending poverty and hunger to tackling climate change. The report highlights how women are affected by each of them and looks at both the ends (goals and targets) and the means (policies and processes) that are needed to make the achievement of the ambitious agenda for sustainable development a reality.

The UN Women report also shows through data how progress for women is a pre-requisite if progress for all is to be achieved.

The report stresses on the commitment to make benefits and services available to all. This commitment, the report says, is complemented by the pledge to “leave no one behind" on the path to sustainable development. “Grounded in the human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination, this commitment recognizes the multiple and intersecting inequalities that so often prevent the full and equal enjoyment of specific groups’ rights in practice," it says.

The report also points to how in India a young woman aged 20–24 from a poor, rural household is 21.8 times less likely to ever attend school than one from a rich urban household, five times more likely to marry before the age of 18 and 5.8 times as likely to become an adolescent mother.

“The likelihood of being poor is greater if she is landless and from a scheduled caste. Her low level of education and status in the social hierarchy will almost guarantee that if she works for pay, it will be under exploitative working conditions," the report states.

There has been a significant increase in overall literacy rates and school participation rates across India since the early 1990s. However, gender and social disparities still exist. Scheduled castes (SC), who comprise 16.6% of the population, and scheduled tribes (ST), who make up 8.6% of the population, have lower literacy rates than the Indian average. The literacy rate for female STs is still under 50% and 57% for SC women, while the numbers are slightly higher for men.

The UN Women report shows how women who live in poor households spend as much as 24% of their work time collecting firewood and water, and foraging for edible and non-edible items to be used as food and housing materials, while women in non-poor households allocate about one half of that time, 12%, to such tasks.

Suggesting a way out, the report says strategies to leave no one behind should aim to create a sense of solidarity through risk-sharing, redistribution and universal services. “Where all citizens reap clear benefits from such services, their willingness to contribute to funding them through progressive taxation is also likely to increase," it says.

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