Time is quickly ticking towards 2030 — the deadline set by world leaders to achieve the UN’s Global Goals — and we haven’t yet done enough to reach gender equality by that year. In fact, we're still about 300 years away.
When the 17 goals — which include things like ending hunger and achieving gender equality — were first outlined, progress on global gender equality seemed to arrive quickly through the election of women to leadership positions, laws targeting gender-based violence (GBV), and the end to discriminatory practices such as bans that prevented women from driving.
Over the past three years, however, humanity has experienced some of the biggest challenges of our lifetime, threatening our progress and making the fight for women’s rights all the more challenging.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic compounded by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, escalating global unemployment, the climate emergency, and global food insecurity have caused extreme poverty to rise for the first time in a generation.
In times of crisis, it’s women and girls who are impacted first and most. In fact, we’ve already started to see a rollback of women’s rights globally. That’s why one of the main areas of this year’s Global Citizen Festival campaign is Equity, which we can achieve for women and girls by removing systemic barriers that prevent them from having equal rights.
Hosted on Central Park’s Great Lawn in New York City, Global Citizen Festival returns on Sept. 23 to drive urgent action to end extreme poverty once and for all. The festival will demand world leaders take action against extreme poverty as they gather in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly. We'll also see incredible performances from headliners Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Jung Kook, and Anitta, as well as from Conan Gray, D-Nice, and Sofia Carson. Stray Kids had been set to perform but due to an unforeseen accident, we will be joined by 3RACHA, which features three members of Stray Kids, Changbin, Bang Chan, and Han.
We can’t end extreme poverty without equity for women and girls; if world leaders invest in women’s health, rights, and education now, we can get back on track to achieve true equality for women and girls around the world.
What’s the Current Status of Gender Equality?
Here’s the thing: it’s true that women were achieving hard-won gains in the years pre-pandemic, but there was still a long way to go to reverse centuries of systemic discrimination and build a better future for girls everywhere. That’s because changing the world involves more than changing laws — it requires changing mindsets so that the well never runs dry.
Because of amplified calls to increase the number of women in politics, there are more women holding political decision-making posts worldwide than ever before, but they’re still underrepresented in government leadership — that’s gender inequality.
After being unemployed at higher rates than men as a result of the pandemic-induced global recession in 2020, women have been returning to the workforce at a slightly higher rate. However, this “recovery” shows that women are overrepresented in the informal economy, which includes jobs like domestic or unpaid care work that rarely offer health care, unemployment benefits, or other protections — that’s gender inequality.
In addition, women earn only 51 cents to every dollar of labor income that men earn globally, with the largest gaps in employment between men and women found in developing nations. Do you know what that is? Yep, you guessed it. That’s gender inequality.
A 2022 report released by UN Women and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) shows that, in almost every area of the Global Goals, women are underrepresented, left out, face backlash, or are ignored by crucial economic and social recovery efforts — stalling progress on Global Goal 5 (for gender equality) indefinitely.
Investing in Women Is Key to Achieving Gender Equality
Gender equality is a thread that is woven into each of the Goals that we need to achieve by 2030. There’s a powerful connection between all of the Global Goals and gender equality, making it so that we cannot end extreme poverty without also supporting women and girls.
Take Global Goal 3: good health and well-being, for instance. Before the pandemic, at least 500 million women and girls lacked access to menstrual hygiene management (MHM) facilities and 190 million women had an unmet need for family planning resources. COVID-19 pushed those numbers even higher as it disrupted health care systems and supply chains, forcing more women to lose access to sanitary pads, contraception, and safe abortions.
If world leaders fully fund women’s health, something incredible will happen.
Young girls will no longer need to miss school during their periods because schools will have access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities. Their families and peers will grow comfortable with the topic of menstruation because they will have the resources to manage their periods confidently and safely, combating misinformation, shame, and stigma.
When world leaders invest in family planning resources, women will be able to make smarter and safer decisions about their futures. Funding for sexual and reproductive health will lower the rates of unsafe abortions and maternal mortality, while policy changes to delay the age of marriage can end child marriage and keep more girls in school.
It's the same for Global Goal 4, for education. Investing in girls' education is a vital way to drive gender equality — and actually is the closest thing we have to a silver bullet to end extreme poverty. That's because when armed with an education, girls see lower rates of unintended pregnancies, of early or forced marriage, and gender-based violence; while more women are able to enter the workforce and secure financial freedom, which also transforms families, communities, and a country’s economic growth.
This dream can become a reality for women and girls everywhere; to make it happen, world leaders have to honor and increase their commitments to gender equality.
How Can Global Citizens Take Action on Gender Equality?
Maintaining the status quo won’t work — only significant investments in women’s health, education, and rights can ensure that no future detrimental global event will be able to reverse progress on gender equality.
This year’s Global Citizen Festival campaign is calling on world leaders to fill the equity gap by investing in and empowering women and girls. Specifically, we’re asking for increased funding for Education Cannot Wait, the UN’s education fund; and for the Menstrual Health Accelerator, which provides sustainable resources and products to end period poverty. We’re also calling on the private sector, foundations, and governments to address an urgent funding gap for UNFPA, the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, to improve women's sexual and reproductive health and rights.
To raise your voice right now for women and girls everywhere, take our quiz to learn why women's sexual and reproductive health rights are essential for gender equality, or call on Norway and Canada to help fill the UNFPA’s funding gap. Taken these actions? Head to the Global Citizen app or our website for more ways you can take action for equity.
By taking action, you can earn points and enter for a chance to win free tickets to the Global Citizen Festival in New York. You’ll join thousands of other Global Citizens ending extreme poverty and calling for equity.