I am excited to have just returned from the kick-off of the Equal Futures Partnership to expand women’s opportunities around the world. The event was held in New York City and part of a number of events USAID is participating in during the United Nations General Assembly this week.
The world has made significant strides in expanding opportunity for women and girls; in the U.S., we just celebrated 40 years of Title IX, an act of Congress that changed the lives of many in my generation by enabling girls to have equal access to education playing sports. Equal access to sports in schools, particularly, taught many of us how to be fierce competitors and learn valuable lessons in team building.
Yet more work is needed to tackle the global gender inequality. Last week, I met in London with donors on this very topic where researchers discussed a number of startlingly facts:
- In 2011, women held only 19 percent of parliamentary seats worldwide, while less than five percent of heads of state and government were women.
- While in the past 25 years, women have increasingly joined the labor market, the World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report describes “pervasive and persistent gender differences” in productivity and earnings across sectors and jobs.
- Though women are 43 percent of the agriculture labor force and undertake many unpaid activities, they own just a tiny fraction of land worldwide.
These realities demand an urgent response.
Building on President Obama’s challenge a year ago at UNGA, the United States government has partnered in a new international effort to break down barriers to women’s political participation and economic empowerment. The goal of the Equal Futures Partnership is to realize women’s human rights by expanding opportunity for women and girls to fully participate in public life and drive inclusive economic growth in our countries.
Through this partnership, the countries of Senegal, Benin, Jordan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Peru, Denmark, Finland, Australia and the European Union are all making new commitments to action, and will consult with national stakeholders inside and outside government, including civil society, multilateral organizations including UN Women and the World Bank, and the private sector, to identify and overcome key barriers to women’s political and economic participation. This partnership promises to be groundbreaking not only for the countries involved but also for those who are watching its implementation.
USAID and its Center for Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance stands by to provide assistance to these countries as well as many others throughout the world as they work to advance women’s political participation and economic empowerment.
This is thrilling work that helps make the promise of development real for everyone–not just a privileged few.