62 million girls are denied the right to education. Half a billion women cannot read. 155 countries still have laws that discriminate against women. This can change.
In honor of International Women’s Day today, The ONE Campaign has released their 2016 report Poverty is Sexist. International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. It is a fact that the only way we can end extreme poverty, create peace, security and prosperity around the world is by improving the lives of women and girls around the globe. If you can do one thing today to help improve the lives of women and girls around the world, you can use the power of your voice and sign this letter here.
The letter is about how poverty is sexist, and urges world leaders to embrace development policies that invest in girls and women. The list of signers includes Bono, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Sheryl Sandberg, Elton John, Oprah Winfrey, Shonda Rhimes, Danai Gurira, Rocky Dawuni, Mary J. Blige, Melinda Gates and more. I am adding my name today and I urge you to add yours as well.
If you have been a regular reader of my blog, you know that I am a huge supporter of improving the rights of women and girls and all people living in extreme poverty. I became passionate about my advocacy work on social good as I began to travel more and see firsthand the injustices around the world. The more I traveled and saw, the more I could not turn away from the fact that billions of people around the world – especially women and girls – are denied the same rights and opportunities as me. As citizens of the developed world, we all have a voice in democracy and can help advocate for legislation and funding that improves the lives of billions. It is a powerful gift that we are so fortunate to have and should not be wasted.
Before I dive into the details of the report, I wanted to share a copy of the letter:
Dear World Leaders:
Nowhere on earth do women have as many opportunities as men. Nowhere.
While the debate around this truth rages everywhere, girls and women living in extreme poverty – those often hit hardest by the injustice of gender inequality – have been left out of the conversation.
This must change. The fight for gender equality is global.
Some 62 million girls are denied the right to education. Half a billion women can’t read. 155 countries still have laws that discriminate against women.
Last year, you signed up to end extreme poverty, and because poverty is sexist, you promised to tackle the gender inequality that keeps people poor.
This year, there are a series of historic opportunities to test your commitment and to make meaningful progress by delivering:
- Funding in 2016 at the Nutrition for Growth and Global Fund Summits to help girls and women fight HIV and malnutrition, because it is an outrage that females account for 74% of all new HIV infections in Africa and 40% of women on the continent suffer from anaemia which results in 20% of maternal deaths;
- Policies which support female economic empowerment access to electricity, connectivity, education and justice, so girls and women have the right to own property, start a business and decided when and whether to marry;
- Better data on the girls and women we can’t see, don’t know exist and therefore can’t yet deliver for.
International Women’s Day must be about advancing girls and women everywhere.
“It’s about time someone said it. Being born female in one of the world’s poorest countries means your life will be harder, simply because of your gender. Unlocking the full potential of girls and women wouldn’t just transform their own lives, or even their families’ – it could help end extreme poverty for good”. – ONE
The 2016 “Poverty is Sexist” report is built on last year’s report which aimed at pushing world leaders to establish new global goals to improve the lives of women and girls worldwide by 2030. The report demonstrated two critical things: First, that poverty and gender inequality go hand-in-hand. Being born in a poor country and being born female amount to a double disadvantage. Second, investments targeted towards girls and women pay dividends in lifting everyone out of poverty more quickly, and are essential in the overall fight to end extreme poverty everywhere.
Since the release of the report last March, much progress has been achieved with the biggest success being the adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals were adopted that include targets specifically around women’s equality. Yet a tremendous amount of work still needs to be done.
Today, we live in a world in which being a woman or girl in poverty is darn right hard:
- In Sub-Saharan Africa women have a one-in-26 risk of dying in pregnancy or childbirth in their lifetime, compared with a one-in-4,900 chance in a developed country.
- 1 in 3 girls in the developing world will likely be married before the age of 19; and a startling 1 in 9 before the age of 15.
- In 2014, in Africa 74% of new HIV infections in adolescents were among girls.
- In 2013, of the 268 million students enrolled in lower secondary school in the developing countries, only 128 million were girls.
- An estimated 20 million infants every year have a low birth weight, representing about 15% of all newborns.
In the 2016 Poverty is Sexist report, ONE argues that “investments targeted at improving the access of girls and women to quality healthcare, education, nutrition, economic opportunity, the Internet and financial institutions are urgently needed. Not only because all human beings should be treated with dignity and respect regardless of gender, but because investing in women and girls is essential to ending extreme poverty”.
Isn’t it time we stood up and helped?