A Data-Driven Look at the World Women Live In

This week, Women Deliver 2019 kicks off in Vancouver, Canada, with over 6,000 delegates from different industries, sectors and countries. Equal Measures 2030 shines a light on the hard numbers behind what they’re all there to discuss: the reality facing girls and women living around the world, and how we can improve their lives.

To make progress transparent and accessible to all, they unveiled a powerful tool, launched today: the SDG Gender Index. It reflects a mammoth effort to look at the numbers and measure how countries are really doing at making progress towards achieving gender quality.

Its initial findings were summarized in a 60-page report. The findings were surprising, and will be crucial in setting the agenda for the next decade.

The Sustainable Development Goals

A quick recap: the Sustainable Development Goals are 17 separate benchmarks set by the United Nations. Each has to do with making life more equal, sustainable, healthy and prosperous for citizens.


While they run the gamut from poverty eradication to environmental protection, they work individually and holistically to increase gender equality (which, in turn, strengthens the capacity of each country to achieve their other goals).

Surprising findings

The findings from the SDG Gender Index report show that we can’t rely on stereotypes. Some countries are showing unequal progress, strength in some areas, and weakness in others. Even some of the lower performing countries are well ahead of the highest ranking on certain indicators. For example:

– Rwanda is one of the highest scorers on indicators that capture women’s physical safety, through how safe they feel walking unaccompanied at night.

– Women in Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Thailand and Uruguay are more likely have to have successful accessed modern family planning methods than women in Canada, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden (although they all ranked well globally.)

– One of the higher rates of women who use digital banking was seen in Kenya.

GDP does not necessarily translate to equality

It is a common misconception that money equals development, and development leads to equality. Yet, the SDG Gender Index report shows that’s not necessarily so.

“Some countries – Finland, Georgia, Greece, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Rwanda, Slovenia, and Viet Nam, among others – perform better than would be expected based on their GDP per capita,” write the authors. “On the other hand, other countries – such as Botswana, Iraq, Malaysia, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States, among others – have lower gender equality scores than might be expected given the countries’ income levels.”

What the numbers don’t show

While the lowest ranking countries have been mired in troubles, and listed on the OECD‘s list of fragile states, some – like Syria and the Central African Republic – were omitted entirely. In the midst of the level of the depths of conflict that these countries have experienced, reliable data is too difficult to gather and analyze.

Lack of data doesn’t mean we should forget these countries or exclude them as we head towards 2030. These populations may be among the most vulnerable.

Even within the countries that were included in the SDG Gender Index report, it’s important to remember that an average number can be a deceiving figure. Even a high ranking country can have populations who desperately need access to care, services or advocates, and lower ranking countries can have ample communities of empowered women ready to mobilize and lead change.

To know more, you can access the full-length SDG Gender Index report here.

Talking Midwives & Human Rights with Kate Gilmore

“We are all born equal in dignity and in rights and in this there is no north or south, no right or left.”

This was the message Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights for the United Nations, shared with the midwives, parents, supporters & advocates gathered at the ICM Congress in Toronto.

Addressing the need to support women’s and girls’ rights to make a positive difference in our world, she spoke passionately about the need for more humanity, especially in the face of great division and distrust. Today, there are more people on the move within and across national boundaries than ever before, and we see more inequity and injustice than ever before too.

We must, Gilmore insisted, accompany those who bear inequality’s harshest burdens. We must accompany all those the world seeks to deny, exclude or deprive of their fundamental human rights. Midwives are essential creators of the solidarity and unity the world needs so desperately to see. I had a chance to talk with Kate Gilmore to hear more about the role of midwifery in fostering greater humanity and compassion.

We are all born with the same set of human rights, and every single one of us bears a responsibility to defend the rights of others along with our own. This might sound like a colossal task, but there are simple actions all of us can take in our everyday lives.

Girls’ Globe is at the 31st ICM Triennial Congress in Toronto, Canada. See all of the Girls’ Globe LIVE coverage here

The Girl Child Platform is going to CSW

For the second year in a row the Girl Child Platform is going to the UN:s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York. The 61st session of CSW begins on March 13th and continues for two weeks. Representatives from UN member states, UN agencies and nonprofit organizations from all over the world will participate in the sessions.

The theme of this year’s session is “Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work”. Today the labour market is in many ways unequal. Women often have lower salaries and inferior benefits than men. Men are also more often in power positions than women. However, this year’s theme is also important for young girls and not only adult women. Reports by The Adolescent Girls Advocacy and Leadership Initiative indicate that teenage girls represent the most economically vulnerable group in the world. Above all the problem remains that women and girls do a lot more unpaid work, like taking care of the household and the family. In many cases this workload leads to girls having to leave school, which contributes to the fact that women in many cases can only find unqualified occupations because of their lack of education. Other issues that girls face are labour and sexual exploitation, child marriage and trafficking.

Girls who are given the opportunity to become economically independent increase their chances of becoming independent in other aspects of life as well, such as increased control over one’s own decisions, body and life choices. To make girls aware of the meaning of independence and economic empowerment in early ages enables equality in older ages. Real change in women’s economic empowerment can be achieved only when girls are empowered.

It is therefore vital that the girl perspective is included and represented in discussions on economic empowerment during CSW. We need to create change both for girls in the present and in the future. It is important to listen to girls themselves and not only have adults speak for them. This is a message that the Girl Child Plattform wants to spread during the upcoming session, as girls are experts on issues that concern girls. To do this we will bring with us 17 people from our member organizations who work with the girl-perspective, and spread the material we have collected from our campaign GirlSmart (Tjejkunnig in Swedish), where girls have sent in their thoughts on what needs to change in society for girls. Girls are experts on girls and their voices need to be heard.

Women In Politics: Moving From the Periphery Toward Peace, Justice, & Strong Institutions

With our sights and Twitter feeds plugged into #2030NOW, the UN has amplified not only the Sustainable Development Goals but also asked us to consider the world we want to live in in 2030. Regardless of our political affiliations, government is highly influential in shaping our world and governance is reflective of societal norms and power dynamics. A low representation of women in government does not lend itself to the inclusive, transparent, and just governance systems we have pledged to achieve by 2030 via Sustainable Development Goal 16, which calls for Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions.

In excluding women from government, women’s preferences, voices, and citizenship are all disempowered. However, women advocates, UN organizations and others have stepped up and voiced these concerns and are actively working to increase female participation in government.

For example, UN Women’s primary goal is to empower women and girls and has used the platform of Goal 16 to elevate the importance of transparent, inclusive governance in empowerment. Their solution involves developing the capacity to conduct gender analysis, monitoring systems to track good governance and women in government and collecting adequate sex disaggregated data to assess gender equality and empowerment in nations around the world.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark spoke on increased government transparency for the betterment of women in September: “Advancing SDG 16 helps advance progress on all the other goals as effective institutions are central, for example, to ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership.”

Clark herself has held a number of positions in government, not only as the head of UNDP, but also as the 37th Prime Minister of New Zealand, and a forerunner in the appointment of the next UN Secretary General. At the +SocialGood Summit, Clark spoke on her Secretary General aspirations with fellow female leader, Former President of Malawi Joyce Banda, “There is a job to be done here. That is going to take leadership and someone with a profile like mine. So I am standing my ground and hoping that I can be the one to get it done.”

Helen Clark’s confidence in her abilities and pursuit of leadership positions inspires young girls and women globally. Seventeen-year-old Sarah Gulley, New Zealand native, is inspired by Clark. As a young person, and girl advocate Ms. Gulley hopes women politicians be criticized for their politics rather their hair, hemlines and husbands, and in shifting the dialogue around women in politics young girls are inclined to become politically active and aware.

Rwanda has the highest percentage of female politicians with 64% of the Lower House and 39% of the Upper House, and one of only two countries with greater than 50% female participation in government. The First Lady, Jeanette Kagame, however, believes female participation is necessary in not only the politics but also the economics of government, saying,

“A global female leader, perhaps correctly, stated, ‘too many women, in too many countries speak the same language: silence.’ We see several girls lacking confidence, preferring to remain on the periphery of economic progress.”

Kagame has further refuted that economic success be hindered because of African culture, and stressed the importance of employing economic opportunities for female empowerment.

Former U.S.  Secretary of State Madeline K. Albright, famously said, “Every country deserves to have the best possible leader and that means that women have to be given a chance to compete. If they’re never allowed to compete in the electoral process then the countries are really robbing themselves of a great deal of talent.”

As a girl interested in politics, I of course hope to see more women and girls become political leaders. And by 2030, I do not doubt that we will have the first female leader of America, the UN, and all other major countries, but I am concerned that they will be the first and also the last. Besides electing women to politics, I hope we continue to inspire and empower young women and girls to becoming female leaders.

For us to achieve the objectives of Goal 16 and transform our government into transparent, inclusive institutions by 2030 we must empower young girls to be involved in every level of politics. And with the guidance of a generation of formidable female leaders like Madeline Albright, Jeanette Kagame, Helen Clark and many others, we can achieve #2030NOW.

Meet Zanele Mabaso – Girls’ Globe Blogger from South Africa

Girls’ Globe is in New York City this week during the United Nations General Assembly – bringing young women from three different continents together to participate, provide live coverage and provide their perspectives on conversations related to the Sustainable Development Goals and the rights and health of women and girls.

Zanele Mabaso is an ardent policy adviser, advocate for women & girls and a social justice writer with published articles on Girls Globe, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, SkyNews24 and other online global advocacy platforms with a focus on HIV Prevention, Adolescents Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, Gender Equality and Gender-based Violence. She is a Youth Advisor to UNFPA and The Partnership on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health – to name a few. She’s a youth leader notably recognised by M&G Top 200 Young People, Top 100 Brightest Young Minds and Top 35 Under 35 CEO’s Foundation.

Follow Zanele on Twitter @zanelemabaso23

Girls’ Globe is partnering with Johnson & Johnson and FHI360 to activate dialogue on women, children and adolescents in the new Global Goals. FInd more information and sign up to our joint newsletters at crowd360.org and join the conversation with #GlobalGoals. 

Global Advocacy at CSW: Girls’ Rights On Our Own Terms

For the past week, I have had the opportunity to join hundreds of girls and young women in the annual Commission on the Status of Women at the UN. Together with eight leaders from the Girl Child Platform, we advocated for two things: that the rights of girls and women needed to be at top of every development agenda and we need to define the empowerment of girls and youth on our own terms.

First of all, the rights of girls need to be defined in a comprehensive and ambitious way. Governments in partnership with the development community need to guarantee every girl’s right to a life free of violence and discrimination; the right to health, education and adequate nutrition; the right to water and the right to a healthy environment. All these rights need to be guaranteed in order to ensure the wellbeing of girls. Throughout the event, we worked to raise the rights of girls in the agenda and to ensure they are all guaranteed in a comprehensive way. When it comes to international development policies, governments tend to commit on the bare minimum to ensure a global agreement. But when it comes to girls’ rights there can be no compromises. And they need to be guaranteed for all, whether a girl lives in a city or in a rural community, whether she lives in a conflict-ridden country, regardless of race, geographic location, immigration status and socioeconomic status. Governments must ensure girls’ basic rights and guarantee that no girl is left behind.

While there are many programs and policies promoting gender equality around the world and in my own country (Mexico): the issue is not the “what” but the how. Educational policies, sexual and reproductive health policies, cannot be top-down approaches. They cannot be based on the same patriarchal mindset that has generated multiple inequalities in the first place. Gender inequality is rooted in unequal power relations. Policies need to be bolder to transform these social structures and relations that keep a patriarchy in place. In order to change this, the international development community and national governments need to place girls and young women at the center and invest in their inherent value and leadership. Programs can’t see girls as victims or beneficiaries, they must make sure girls get an opportunity to fulfill their potential. And one effective way to do this is to invest in their empowerment.

The empowerment of girls has been at the center of global debate now but it should be up to girls, adolescents and young women to define what this really means.

Empowerment occurs when girls or young women understand that they have rights and that they should have the opportunities and freedom to fulfill these. The empowerment occurs when a girl no longer internalizes the unequal power relations between women and men. It is when a girl or young woman truly believes she is a leader and she knows that she has the possibility to shape her life and that of her community and country. And this process doesn’t happen overnight and it’s normally not included in statistics or policy planning.

The empowerment of girls and young women is an individual and collective long-term process and it varies according to different contexts. There is not one solution, plan or policy that can work for all. And that’s why the role of girls and youth advocates is so vital both at the global level and the national level. As a new generation, many of us believe in a new world where equality and justice is possible and necessary. We are to define our rights on our own terms. Now it is time for governments and the UN, who speak about empowerment and rights, to include our inputs, criticisms and contributions. It’s our right and our engagement in the process is the only way we can bridge the gap between promise and reality.

Written by Ana Lucia Marquez Escobedo, The Hunger Project Mexico

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