The journey to equality for girls and women has seen great progress in the last century. With the right to vote in the U.S. in 1920, the rise of feminism and a shift in women’s consciousness in the 1960s, an increasing leveling of women’s labor-force participation, and a growing rise in campaigns to tackle violence against women across the globe, it would seem that we are on the right track.
With all this progress, it’s disheartening that in 2013 we still need to be talking about making equality for girls and women around the world a development priority.
Yet, with two years left to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, we, as a global community, have failed to invest sufficiently in maternal and child health, in reducing school drop out rates for girls and in other key areas of development, like access to modern contraceptive services and information, that enable girls to plan their lives.
Gender equality is now widely recognized as one of the most effective ways to fight extreme poverty and build healthier, wealthier and more educated communities. We know that investing in girls and women makes economic sense. It is a fact that women reinvest up to 90 percent of their incomes back into their own households, compared to just 30-40 percent by men, and currently women’s unpaid labor is estimated to contribute up to 50 percent of GDP in some countries.
But today there are still 31 million girls who are denied an education, 300,000 preventable maternal deaths per year and 222 million women who have an unmet need for contraception.
Even though the gender gaps in girls’ enrollment in primary education have closed in almost all countries and women are living longer and having fewer children, progress has been slow and uneven. Gender disparities remain pervasive, deeply entrenched in private and public realms, and continue to be a major driver of poverty.
This is why, at this year’s Global Citizen Festival, the Global Poverty Project along with our partners, are asking for gender equality to be at the heart of the post-2015 development framework.
We are asking the UN Secretary-General, together with the countries that comprise the working group drafting the successor to the Millennium Development Goals, to embrace a bold, ambitious post-2015 agenda that will make equality for girls and women its core priority underlying the success of the new development agenda.
We are specifically asking for the Secretary General and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) working group to include in the report, clear measures to:
- Keep girls in school and reduce dropout rates
- Ensure that every girl and woman has access to a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health information and services
- Establish targets to track and achieve gender equality across all goals
It is only by investing in equality for girls and women now, and into the future, that we can achieve the goal of a poverty-free world by 2030.