“Women's empowerment and their full participation based on equality in all spheres of society, including participation in the decision-making process and access to power, are fundamental for the achievement of equality, development, and peace,” Barack Obama, “Within the United States, we are taking steps to support working families, encourage women and girls to pursue careers in the STEM fields, and provide additional opportunities for women entrepreneurs.” (UNWOMEN, n.d.)
In 2006, the U.S. was third in the world for economic gender equality. In 2016 it had fallen to 26th (ROTHY'S, 2018).There is a huge movement among women to empower one another, secure equal rights, challenge gender narratives, and establish a brighter future for our daughters. Women empowerment has caught pace around the globe with women helping each other grow.
Why focus on women? Women play a vital role in sustainable development. The 1995 Beijing Declaration and the 1992 Rio Declaration recognized that empowering women was key to sustainable development, yet discriminatory gender practices continue to be a key driver of poverty (Lefton, 2013). Putting an end to extreme poverty requires providing opportunities, especially for women through education, nutrition, and health.
The UN General Assembly introduced Millenium Development Goals in September 2001 to prepare a roadmap on how to eradicate poverty. There is MDG 3 which aims at promoting gender equality and empowering women, and MDG 5 which pledges efforts to improve maternal healthcare. These two goals touching on women are yet to be fulfilled decades later, though great strides have been taken.
For the Millenium Development Goal 3, the average gap in primary education is closing; however, there is not much progress in secondary and tertiary education. Women's employment outside the agricultural sector has increased from 30% to 40% from the 1990s to 2010 (Lefton, 2013). Women still make up less than 21% of parliamentarians worldwide. As much as there's some progress made, we still have a long way to go before reaching gender equality and eradicating poverty among women.
Progress towards the fulfillment of MDG 5 to reduce maternal mortality has also not been met. The target will not be met during the set timeline. The prevalence of contraceptives has also increased globally but remains very low among the poorest and uneducated communities. Adolescent or teenage pregnancy rates have also gone down albeit slowly due to high poverty rates and a lack of education.
Factors such as violence against women are also key obstacles to women's empowerment. Elimination of all forms of violence is integral to sustainable development. No country in the world can proudly proclaim that its women live freely without fear of any form of violence. As long as women face violence, discrimination, and hate, all the efforts to eradicate poverty, and achieve equality and democracy will not succeed.
For societies to thrive, women must have access to education, healthcare, and technology to give them the power to act freely and exercise their rights and the ability to fulfill their potential. When more women work, economies grow, and developing global markets for goods and services are expanded. When women are living safe, fulfilled and productive lives, they can reach their full potential. They can contribute their broad array of skills to the workforce and can raise happier and healthier children if and when they choose to have any.
ReferencesLefton, R. (2013, March 11). Gender Equality. Retrieved from American Progress: https://www.americanprogress.org/article/gender-equality-and-womens-empowerment-are-key-to-addressing-global-poverty/
ROTHY'S. (2018, November 2). 15 ways to empower women. Retrieved from ROTHY'S: https://rothys.com/blogs/the-loop/15-ways-to-empower-women
UNWOMEN. (n.d.). The United States of America to work towards a world where every woman and girl can enjoy their rights and freedoms. Retrieved from UN WOMEN: https://www.unwomen.org/en/get-involved/step-it-up/commitments/usa
Sarah Hobson, Ph.D. specializes in supporting teams, departments and schools, businesses, and government agencies in building inclusive innovative change-making communities who understand how to connect well with and join diverse populations in providing needed sustainable resources for all youth and families.