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A young woman from a fishing community in West Bengal in eastern India. She comes from a village that is known for high levels of trafficking of women and girls to other major cities
Flickr: UN Women/Anindit Roy- Chowdhury
ImpactDemand Equity

World Leaders Called for an End to Sexist Laws

More than 2.5 billion women and girls are impacted by explicitly sexist laws and an absence of legal protections around the world. These include child marriage laws, prohibitions on travel, and legal systems that don’t prosecute rape. They also include laws that bar women from owning or inheriting property, opening a bank account, pursuing the same jobs as men, or managing their own assets.

Farzaneh_180925_7900.jpgUK Minister of State Harriett Baldwin, and Åsa Regnér, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women meet onstage, Farzaneh Jhila for Global Citizen

Sexist laws are a key barrier to women’s economic empowerment. Yet, if women and girls worldwide participated in the economy identically to men, it would add $28 trillion to global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2025. This is equivalent to adding a new United States anda new China to the global economy. 

On 25 September 2018, world leaders gathered for Global Citizen’s “Leveling the Law for Women and Girls by 2030” reception to discuss and exchange ideas on how to improve women’s economic empowerment and legal reform initiatives. The event was moderated by South African Global Citizen Ambassadors Maps Maponyane, South African TV Presenter and actor, and Nandi Madida, South African TV Presenter and musician. This high-level reception was hosted in partnership with UN Women and the Group of Champions for Women’s Economic Empowerment and co-chaired by Costa Rica and the United Kingdom. 

Farzaneh_180925_7786.jpgCosta Rica’s Vice President Epsy Campbell Barr, UK Minister of State Harriett Baldwin, and Åsa Regnér, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, Farzaneh Jhila for Global Citizen

Costa Rica’s Vice President Epsy Campbell Barr, UK Minister of State Harriett Baldwin, and Åsa Regnér, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women joined a panel discussion to share their perspectives on how a multi-stakeholder approach to changing policies and practices is key to empowering women economically.

“The private sector is also a crucial partner in all of this,” said Baldwin. “So many countries and companies are changing their practices and their culture to really improve opportunities for women’s pay and working opportunities.”

Regner also emphasized the importance of multi-sectoral partnerships to achieve women's economic empowerment. 

“Economic rights are fundamental rights,” she said. “I think it is absolutely key that people who push this agenda come together.”

Gender discrimination in the law, they said, is a critical barrier to economic growth and international development. In fact, “90% of the worlds assets are still owned by men,” Baldwin said.

Take Action: Call on President Ramaphosa to end gender-based violence.

Farzaneh_180925_7916.jpgZambian Minister of Gender, Elizabeth Phiri opens up a panel discussion, Farzaneh for Global Citizen

In another panel discussion, the Zambian Minister of Gender, Elizabeth Phiri, Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Martin Chungong and Director & Head of HEAIDS, Dr. Ramneek Ahluwalia highlighted the urgency to level the law. 

Via video message, Sandie Okoro, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the World Bank shone a light on how laws affect women’s economic inclusion. 

“Many laws prevent women from working or running a business, affecting their economic choices," he said. "For example, 104 economies still have laws preventing women from working in specific jobs, 59 economies have no laws on sexual harassment in the workplace, and in 18 economies, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working. Legal gender equality is essential if we wish to overcome fragility, to overcome conflict, and to overcome poverty.” 

A highlight of the event was the powerful speech given by Pearl Thusi, a Mandela 100 Celebrity Ambassador and South African actress, model and TV presenter. She spoke of the need to create legislation that guarantees rights for women and how everyone has a role to play in influencing the narrative of gender equality. 

Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN’s Global Goals to end extreme poverty. A vital part of every goal is gender equality because, as Nelson Mandela said in 1996, “as long as outmoded ways of thinking prevent women from making a meaningful contribution to society, progress will be slow.” You can join us by taking action here to that together, we can Level the Law and achieve a world where #SheIsEqual

Related Stories Oct. 3, 2018 The Gambia Is Rewriting Sexist Laws to End Gender Discrimination