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2. Empower Girls and Women and Achieve Gender Equality

High Level Panel on the Post-2020 Development Agenda

a) Prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against girls and women

b) End child marriage

c) Ensure equal right of women to own and inherit property, sign a contract, register a business and open a bank account

d) Eliminate discrimination against women in political, economic, and public life

Far too many women continue to face oppression and deeply embedded discrimination. This affects everything from access to health and education to the right to own land and earn a living, to equal pay and access to financial services, to participation in decision-making at local and national levels, to freedom from violence. Gender equality is integrated across all of our illustrative goals, but the empowerment of women and girls and gender equality is an important issue in its own right. Half of the world’s people are women – and a people-centred agenda must work to realise their equal rights and full participation.

Gender-based violence is both persistent and widespread. This violence takes many different forms: rape, domestic violence, acid attacks, so-called “honor” killings. It cuts across the boundaries of age, race, culture, wealth and geography. It takes place in the home, on the streets, in schools, the workplace, in farm fields, refugee camps, during conflicts and crises. Our first target on preventing and eliminating all forms of violence against girls and women is universal. But measurement is complex. When women feel more empowered and believe justice will be done, reported incidents of violence may rise.

Child marriage is a global issue across, but sensitive to, culture, religions, ethnicity and countries. When children marry young, their education can be cut short, their risk of maternal mortality is higher and they can become trapped in poverty. Over the last decade, 15 million girls aged 10-14 have been married.

Women should be able to live in safety and enjoy their basic human rights. This is a first and very basic step. But we must go further. Women across the world strive to overcome significant barriers keeping them from realising their potential. We must demolish these barriers. Women with equal rights are an irreplaceable asset for every society and economy.

We know that gender equality transforms not only households but societies. When women can decide how to spend their household’s money, they tend to invest more in their children. A woman who receives more years of schooling is more likely to make decisions about immunisation and nutrition that will improve her child’s chances in life; indeed, more schooling for girls girls and women between 1970 and 2009 saved the lives of 4.2 million children.

No society has become prosperous without a major contribution from its women. The World Economic Forum finds that the countries with small gender gaps are the same countries with the highest ratings for “international competitiveness”—and microeconomic studies suggest that the economic participation of women drives household income growth.

Considerable progress has been made in bringing about greater gender equality in access to health and education. This momentum must be maintained by making sure that targets in these areas are broken down by gender. Much less progress has been made in narrowing social, economic and political gaps, so our focus is on these two issues.

Half of the women in the labour force are in vulnerable employment, with no job security and no protection against economic shocks. Women are far more likely than men to be in vulnerable employment in many places, with rates from 32 per cent to 85 per cent in different regions, versus 55 per cent to 70 per cent for men. All too often, they receive less pay than their male counterparts for the same work.

We must work to fulfill the promise of women’s equal access to, and full participation in, decision-making, and end discrimination on every front. This must happen in governments, companies and in civil society. In countries where women’s interests are strongly represented, laws have been passed to secure land rights, tackle violence against women and improve health care and employment. Yet women currently occupy less than 20 percent of parliamentary seats worldwide.

The message is simple. Women who are safe, healthy, educated, and fully empowered to realise their potential transform their families, their communities, their economies and their societies. We must create the conditions so they can do so.

Higher Gender Equality Associated with Higher Income