COPENHAGEN, May 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – With women and girls facing discrimination and violence in every part of the world, the United Nations last year committed to work towards gender equality in the next 15 years as part of a new set of global goals.
Key participants attending the fourth global Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen were asked what they thought were the most important actions needed to improve the lives of women and girls by 2030.
The Women Deliver conference, billed as the largest women’s event in a decade, is being held from May 16-19, organised by a global advocacy organisation fighting for girls’ and women’s health, rights and wellbeing.
PHUMZILE MLAMBO-NGCUKA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF UN WOMEN – “Addressing the issue of prejudice against women that is present in all societies is important for all of us no matter what country we come from. We have under-invested in ending these deep prejudices … and need to look again at traditional laws that discriminate against women. At a macro level we need to make a change so women are looked at as solution providers for the family and the economy and not as dependents.”
JULIA GILLARD, CHAIR OF THE GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP FOR EDUCATION – “The under-education of girls is one of the most pressing social issues of our time. When we educate our girls, we see reduced child deaths, healthier children and mothers, fewer child marriages and faster economic growth. And yet, 63 million girls are not in school. This is unacceptable. We need to move beyond well-meaning but scattered advocacy and toward helping countries to build strong education systems that deliver quality education to all students.”
MARGARET CHAN, DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION – “I want to see women – all women – move to the pole position in the race for sustainable development. For that to happen, the world has to not just stop leaving women and girls behind. It means putting them out in front. Ensuring they are where discrimination and violence can no longer hold them back. Where they can get the education and employment opportunities they deserve.”
BABATUNDE OSOTIMEHIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE UNITED NATIONS POPULATION FUND (UNFPA) – “By 2030, all women and girls must be able to enjoy their rights to live free of violence, coercion and discrimination, to control their destinies and fertility, and to play a full and equal role in building society and ending poverty. More than 220 million women still cannot get modern contraception. Each day, more than 800 women still die during pregnancy or childbirth, and more than 37,000 girls under 18 are married. How can the world develop if we exclude half the population?”
HELLE THORNING-SCHMIDT, CEO OF SAVE THE CHILDREN INTERNATIONAL – “Despite tremendous progress, girls are still not receiving the same opportunities as boys. At both the global and national level, legislation and policies must be put in place to support women and girls. This includes eliminating harmful practices such as child marriage, female genital mutilation, and all forms of physical, sexual and psychological violence. Girls and women must have access to quality affordable healthcare and education. However, to achieve any of this, we must change attitudes about the value and rights of women and remove gender-based barriers and discrimination.”
HELEN CLARK, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE UN DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME – “We must get more women into decision-making positions, not only because this is the right thing to do but because women decision-makers bring forward issues which previously were not adequately addressed. We must remove structural barriers to economic empowerment, such as unpaid work and the inability to own land or access credit. Finally, we should invest in women and girls as active agents of positive change. Closing gender gaps in labour markets, education, health, and other areas reduces poverty and hunger, improves the nutrition and education of children, and drives economic growth and agricultural production.”
MABEL VAN ORANJE, CHAIR OF GIRLS NOT BRIDES: THE GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP TO END CHILD MARRIAGE – “We cannot achieve gender equality if we don’t end the harmful practice of child marriage which affects 15 million girls a year. While progress has been made, more needs to be done. Firstly, everyone has a part to play: it requires a multi-sector approach, involving the health, education and economic sectors. Secondly, we must address the root causes of child marriage – poverty, conflict and gender inequality. Thirdly, we need to work with civil society organisations who understand the country context and have strong relationships in communities.”