Sustainable Development Goals and women’s roles in society

The UN Sustainable Development goals can be found here. Every item on the UN Sustainable Goals represents a change in women’s roles in the household since 1941.

  1. No Poverty: poverty overwhelmingly impacts women and girls by reducing their access to education and employment opportunities. Women in poverty are forced to subsist rather than pursue their interests. While overall poverty has declined globally in the past 80 years, the COVID pandemic has forced 96 million people, including 47 million women and girls, into poverty according to 
  2. Zero Hunger: all genders need to eat. World hunger remains a problem, not because of a lack of food supply, but because of a lack of access to food. This is one aspect of modern life that has remained fairly consistent over the past 80 years. There has almost always been enough food since 1941 to feed all people on the planet but political issues of accessing food for the people in need has remained a problem 
  3. Good Health and Well-being: healthy lives ensure that all people, including women, are able to avoid pain, especially chronic pain. Since 1941, with improvements in medical and pharmaceutical technologies, more women have been able to choose whether or not they want to have children and, for those who do, to survive childbirth. 
  4. Quality education is critical to ensuring that women and girls have similar opportunities as men to access educated careers and start businesses. It also ensures that women can implement theoretical ideas from their education, putting into practice aspects of knowledge that other genders may not have noticed before. 
  5. Gender equality: this one seems pretty self-explanatory. The past 80 years have seen considerable advancement for women in public life with more women elected to government now than in previous decades. Yet these advancements have not been evenly distributed. Only in 1960 did Indigenous women (and men) achieved the right to vote in Canadian federal elections. And today, Indigenous women make up over 30% of all female inmates in the federal prison system, yet less than 3% of the overall female population. Clearly, progress is being made but it’s not always equally shared.
  6. Clean water: disease is often spread due to poor sanitation and lack of clean water for cleaning and drinking. Since women are often forced into positions of caring for sick loved ones, the goal of clean drinking water not only reduces pain from disease but also reduces women’s social burden of caring to the sick. Those charged with using water in their societies, as women often are (rightly or wrongly), are therefore most at risk of being impacted by the lack of clean water. 
  7. Affordable and clean energy: without affordable clean energy sources, women will be shut out of transportation which limits their independence and makes them dependent on others. The ongoing crisis on “the highway of tears” in northern British Columbia is in part a crisis of transportation as Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people have historically not had access to reliable and affordable transportation. The shift to new clean energy transportation means that access to transportation will change. It will be necessary to consider the gender-based aspects of transportation to ensure that the transition accommodates those who have historically been left out of the conversation around transportation rights.
  8. Decent work: the Second World War, which occurred when the Potato House was first constructed, saw many men serve in the military overseas and women had to fill the jobs left behind by men. This event showed that women could do work that was traditionally associated with men like welding, carpentry, and mechanical work. Since the end of the war and men’s return to the regular workforce, that acknowledgement was largely ignored but over the last 80 years more women have been breaking into male-dominated fields. The gradual return of women to the workforce has in many ways been somewhat of a return to the realities of the early 1940s (though the circumstances are admittedly different). 
  9. Industry, innovation, and infrastructure: fostering innovation ensures that women can participate in creating the economy of tomorrow. Sustainable development requires that women also lead in creating, designing, and maintaining the infrastructure of the future. Without insight from all genders, technology and innovative systems will continue to replicate older biases. Studies on the existence of sexism in digital media algorithms ( show that even computers make gender-based decisions that can negatively impact women, something which should be avoided in future innovation.
  10. Reduced inequalities: income inequality overwhelmingly impacts women. While women have made considerable progress since the 1940s in being recognized as official participating members of the social order, women remain underrepresented in higher-earning fields. Women with children are especially underrepresented in higher earning fields due to sexist assumptions about how they spend their time.
  11. Sustainable cities: cities that are built on commuting are more spread out and taxing on transportation systems than cities with decentralized amenities and care facilities. Cities have generally become more centralized since 1941 as downtown cores attract more capital and investment but this has adversely affected peripheral communities and as a result car culture and dependence on transportation have become even more severe. Creating more sustainable cities means making communities more self-reliant and thus allowing women to access services and care in close proximity to their homes. 
  12. Responsible consumption & production: to date, irresponsible consumption has led to considerable hardship for women. Many journalists have documented the interrelated relationships between resource production, especially extractive natural resource industries, and the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women ( Ongoing violence against Indigenous women continues as a symptom of irresponsible consumption. Industries must therefore prioritize the needs of communities where they consume and produce goods.
  13. Climate action: the climate crisis has deepened over the course of the last 80 years as more countries adopted fossil fuel power to run their economies, a process which will ultimately bear the heaviest burden for women since women’s lives globally tend to be dependent on their local resources, according to a recent UN report ( 
  14. Protect the oceans: the oceans make up two thirds of the Earth’s surface (and half of all ocean waters are in the Pacific, the Potato House’s nearest ocean). Acidification of the oceans from climate change and biodiversity loss will make it harder for women who live in coastal or aquatic locales to access fish and other marine life. 
  15. Life on Land: As above, ecological breakdown from biodiversity loss and topsoil erosion will cause immense damage to human societies and since women often carry the burden of planting crops in the global south, changes to life on land will heavily impact them the most. The Potato House has been a story of success in this regard for fostering topsoil renewal through the community garden project which improves the quality of soil for gardeners and thereby improves the quality of life in the community.
  16. Peace, justice, and strong institutions: the impact of wars on women can be both material and ideological. Wars typically force women to step in to roles they otherwise would not occupy and care for the injured and their families. They can also lead to the disempowerment of women. The Chilcotin War of 1864, which was fought just a few kilometers north and west of Williams Lake in Tsilhqot’in territory, ended when the colonial government of British Columbia executed five war chiefs at Quesnel and proclaimed them criminals, rather than warriors defending their lands. This event marked the land as belonging to British Columbia, not the Tsilhqot’in, whose traditional governance structure that included matriarchal councils and advisors were suppressed by the colony. 
  17. Partnerships for the goals: the global partnership for sustainable development requires not only international consciousness and cooperation and increased recognition of women who are often underrepresented in feminist projects. Transwomen, non-binary, and queer women’s needs are often not considered legitimate or “not sufficiently female” and thus are neglected. In the spirit of building these partnerships, the Potato House is beginning by forging relationships with the Williams Lake Pride Society to provide a venue for their communities to tell their stories in an arts and culture setting.