A baby girl born today will still have to confront inequality and discrimination, no matter where she lives. Women are 14 times more likely to die in a disaster than men, over 50 percent of working women have vulnerable, informal jobs with no benefits, and two thirds of the world’s illiterate are women. At the same time, 46 percent of global news content reinforces gender stereotypes so thousands of women continue to get fired from their jobs or lose out on pay or promotions for simply being pregnant. Women are still a distinct minority at decision making tables both in governments and business not to mention that one out of every three women will suffer sexual violence during their lifetime. All this simply makes no sense today when we know that women’s empowerment is the closest thing to a “silver bullet” for human development.
Last week, the United Nations Security Council’s debate on women, peace and security, focused on the risk that women in armed conflicts face and in particular the effects of displacement on women as they flee from violence. As refugees they are at greater risk of human trafficking, sexual violence, forced and early marriage and lack of access to education and health services. The Security Council called on countries to ensure women receive the protection, basic services and humanitarian assistance they need and that they have better access to justice. It is our collective responsibility to make sure they do just that.
Empowerment of women is needed across the globe. Not only in poor or conflict countries, which is often where they are most at risk, but in rich countries as well. We are still far from real equality between men and women, even in Nordic and European countries that are at the forefront of equality for women. We need to close the gap.
There may be more girls going to school than ever before, more women actively participating in governments and less women subject to human right violations for the mere fact of being women, but if we look at the figures, there is still a very long road ahead. We need to understand that this is not some abstract issue we can afford to sit around and ponder upon. We all need to speak up and join movements such as #heforshe with Emma Watson, the UN Foundation’s Girl Up campaign, #YesAllWomen, or Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky. I am!
In encouraging us all — individually and collectively — to be much more active in pushing for serious change, I remind you of this simple fact: there will be no peace, nor sustainable development, without the active participation of women at all levels of society.