‘If you don’t know where to start with the SDGs, start with women and girls everything else will fall into place,’ said UN Women head Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka recently. These photographs of women and girls all over the world illustrate each of the 17 SDGs.


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Eti is a domestic worker, the most common form of child labour in Bangladesh. She illustrates goal 1 – no poverty. Poverty is multidimensional and goes beyond income poverty. Girls bear the brunt of poverty in many societies: they are often the first in a household to drop out of school, or miss out on food.

Photograph: Ken Hermann/Save the Children

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Eleven-year-old schoolgirl Djeneba peels the corn harvested by her family. She illustrates goal 2 – zero hunger. Women and girls are often excluded from decision making on land and resources critical to their livelihoods and food security. Work on this goal must ensure that women and girls – who are frequently responsible for their family’s smallholdings – benefit equally from all targets, especially from access to land and financial services.

Photograph: World Vision

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A midwife examines a heavily pregnant woman in Myanmar’s Chin State, illustrating goal 3 – good health and wellbeing. This goal has a wide range of areas including: reducing maternal mortality, ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under five, ending and combating diseases such as HIV and malaria, reducing non-communicable diseases, improving treatment of substance abuse, reducing deaths and injuries from traffic accidents, ensuring sexual and reproductive health and rights services and universal health coverage for all.

Photograph: Peter Biro/International Rescue Committee

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Girls at school in Bihar state, India, illustrating goal 4 – quality education, which recognises the transformative power of inclusive education. It aims to ensure access to free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education for girls and boys and to technical vocational and tertiary education and relevant skills for sustainable development, including literacy and numeracy, for youth and adults.

Photograph: Ehtisham Husain/European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development

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Girls take a break from training with their football team in Lusaka, Zambia, illustrating goal 5 – gender equality. It aims to end all forms of discrimination, and eliminate all forms of violence and harmful practices against all women and girls everywhere. Reaching this goal will necessitate recognising and valuing unpaid care and domestic work, ensuring women’s full participation and equal opportunities for leadership in political, economic and public life, and accessing sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Photograph: Plan International

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Villagers in Senegal enjoy a sustainable supply of clean drinking water, illustrating goal 6 – clean water and sanitation. In many societies, girls and women have primary responsibility for the management of household water supply and those who live in the poorest rural areas often have to walk for several kilometres each day to collect water for their families. If achieved, this goal will be particularly transformative for the most marginalised girls and women living in poverty in rural areas as they will have more time for education and income-generating activities.

Photograph: Yasmine Sweetlove/2013 Lux-Development


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A young girl from Niger carries animal dung on her head to sell at a local market, illustrating goal 7 – affordable and clean energy. In the poorest areas of many developing countries most energy currently comes from fuels such as wood, charcoal and agricultural wastes. Collecting these fuels is often the responsibility of women and girls. This is a physically draining task that can take up to 20 hours per week and girls are sometimes kept home from school to help gather fuel. Moreover, women and girls face increased risk of sexual harassment and assault when travelling long distances.

Photograph: Plan International

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Shukri, an 18-year-old seamstress, is now running her own business in Puntland, Somalia after doing vocational training, illustrating goal 8 – decent work and economic growth. It aims to achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training, eradicate forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking, and end child labour and the use of child soldiers.

Photograph: Hedinn Halldorsson/Save the Children

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A woman walks along rail tracks in Kenya illustrating goal 9 – industry, innovation and infrastructure. Infrastructure projects are often gender insensitive because it is assumed that everyone will automatically benefit equally, without recognition of the differences in their respective situations. Gender mainstreaming is critical in ensuring that women and girls do not become worse off.

Photograph: Graeme Robertson/IPPF EN

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UN women’s voices against violence training in western India illustrating goal 10 – reduced inequalities. This goal is especially key for girls, and it demonstrates the overlapping inequalities they face on the grounds of their age and gender, race, ethnicity, income poverty, disability, and as a result of discriminatory social norms. Together with an enabling environment for gender equality, this goal will help to reduce the inequalities that hold girls back.

Photograph: Urjasi Rudra/UN Women

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Young volunteers at the Family Planning Association of Albania gather at their university residence in Tirana illustrating goal 11 – sustainable cities and communities. This goal is key for girls and women as many face the risk of gender-based violence in and around the cities and settlements they live in on a daily basis. This threat is exacerbated by disasters, lack of safe public transport and street lighting.

Photograph: Layla Aerts/IPPF

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A woman in Nairobi stands in front of her fruit and vegetable stall, which was supported by a cooperative group and NGO funding, illustrating goal 12 – responsible consumption and production. This goal affects the future of some of the most marginalised girls in the world. These girls are less likely to have an impact on the environment through their patterns of consumption, but suffer from the negative environmental impacts of global production and consumption patterns.

Photograph: Jonathan Torgovnik/Reportage by Getty Images

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A girl standing where her house used to be, which was washed away due to heavy floods in Chawhara, Bangladesh, illustrating goal 13 – climate action. Climate change has a disproportionate impact on the lives of women and girls in the poorest communities where gender inequality is firmly entrenched. Girls often face social, political and economic barriers that limit their capacity to cope with disasters linked to climate change. For example, the impact of droughts and floods can end a girl’s education and in the aftermath of disasters, the risk of gender-based violence is known to increase.

Photograph: Josh Estey/Care International


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A woman fishes for tilapia in El Salvador as part of a youth economic empowerment programme, illustrating goal 14 – life below water. Reductions in pollution and controls on overfishing will help girls and women living in the poorest small-scale fishing communities. There is often a misconception that women do not fish, yet their livelihoods are often linked to small-scale fishing, through coastal fishing and in fish markets.

Photograph: Luis Tobar/Plan International

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Young girls in Kabhre district, south-east of Kathmandu, Nepal, illustrating goal 15 – life on land. The sustainable use of ecosystems will benefit girls living in the areas most affected by damaged ecosystems as they are more likely to be affected by droughts and food insecurity caused by the impacts of land degradation. This goal must include girls and women as they are often responsible for collecting firewood for example, which contributes to deforestation.

Photograph: Graeme Robertson/IPPF

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A female officer of the Somali police force after completing training on human rights, and international humanitarian law and policing, illustration goal 16 – peace, justice and strong institutions. This goal is key to ensuring all girls can access and realise their rights. For example, birth registration means girls have access to services such as education and healthcare, and protecting them from child, early and forced marriage. The inclusion of a target on ending violence against children should lead to the development of comprehensive gender-sensitive child protection.

Photograph: Noor Khamis/UNDP Somalia


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Girls from a female football team in Capa, Brazil dance in a circle, illustrating goal 17 – partnerships for the goals. Without strong means of implementation, it will not be possible to achieve any of the other goals. Girls are affected by all the areas of this goal, and all actions within it must be gender-sensitive in order to ensure girls benefit equally. In particular, it is key that all data collected across all goals is broken down by gender and age, so that governments and policymakers can fully understand the impact of the SDGs on girls’ lives.

Photograph: Leo Drumond/Plan International

On theguardian.com material

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