Friday, 29 November 2013

Unfinished business: women and girls front and centre beyond 2015

This post, by Emily Esplen, Policy Analyst on Gender Equality and Women’s Rights at the OECD, is based on a speech prepared for the Secretary General of the OECD for a joint workshop of the DAC Network on Gender Equality and the UN Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality on the MDGs and post-2015. This blog is a part of the Wikiprogress series on Post-2015.

There is no chance of making poverty history without significant and rapid improvements to the lives of women and girls. Millennium Development Goal 3 (MDG 3) recognised that gender equality is important both as a goal in its own right and as a prerequisite to the success of all other development goals. That gender equality and women’s empowerment is one of only eight global goals has proven to be a powerful stimulus for action.

Yet despite hard won gains, we are a long way from achieving gender equality. All over the world, women and girls continue to face discrimination, exclusion, poverty and violence on the basis of their sex. The figures are stark. Gender parity in primary education has not been achieved in 68 countries. Women still face gender pay gaps, occupational segregation and glass ceilings. They hold less secure jobs than men, with fewer social benefits. 800 women die every day from preventable pregnancy and childbirth related causes. One in three women experience violence in their lifetime.

We must do everything we can to achieve the MDGs by the end of 2015. This means meeting existing aid commitments and investing in the right strategies to accelerate progress for women and girls in the time that remains. Finishing the job we started with the MDGs will also require an ambitious and inspiring post-2015 framework that builds on and expands the priority given to advancing gender equality in the MDGs.

Agreeing an ambitious agenda 


This was the focus of much lively debate at a workshop in early November in Paris, which drew together gender equality advocates from the United Nations, governments and civil society. Participants echoed the strong consensus emerging from across the globe that addressing the "unfinished business" of gender equality and women’s empowerment means putting women and girls front and centre in the post-2015 framework. This will require a strong stand-alone gender equality goal and the comprehensive integration of gender-specific targets and indicators across the new framework.

Now is time to go beyond business as usual and step up our efforts to empower girls and women. Participants were unequivocal that a new framework will need to address the structural factors that underpin the widespread persistence of gender inequality. This calls for a transformational agenda that is anchored in and aligned with existing international human rights standards. Priority must be given to addressing the disadvantage experienced by the most marginalised women and girls.

Fighting for the targets and indicators that will really make a difference 


When the time is right, we need to be ready with the targets and indicators that will really make a difference to the lives of women and girls. Already clear areas of consensus are emerging about what is needed. We know that quality secondary education has huge pay-offs for women’s empowerment. We know that putting an end to early marriage would transform girls’ lives – enabling them to stay in school, fulfil their potential and make choices about their futures. We know that expanding women’s economic opportunities is a key driver of development with multiplier effects for societies, economies and women themselves. We know that women’s capacity to influence the decisions that shape their lives is a basic human right and a prerequisite for responsible and equitable governance. We know that ending violence against women is essential for women’s full participation in economic, social and political life. Each of these must be priorities in the post-2015 framework.

Backing up political rhetoric with action


Building a framework with teeth will require adequate and sustained financing, and strong accountability mechanisms. Political promises must be backed up with the resources required to do the job. We need to gather and use high quality data to monitor our progress and build evidence about what works. We also need to track governments’ expenditure and the proportion of aid focused on achieving gender equality, and hold ourselves to account for the promises we make.

Towards a universal agenda


At the OECD, we know that there is no country in the world where gender equality has been achieved. That’s why we need to keep a strong focus on gender equality beyond 2015. It is also a potent reminder that gender equality is a universal concern that applies to all countries, including OECD countries.

The OECD aspires to play the role of “best supporting actor” in support of these global processes – recognising that real progress is only possible if countries themselves own the agenda and are in the lead. Bringing gender equality and women’s rights to the centre of government attention is a challenge for the months ahead.

Arriving at global consensus will not be easy. With gender equality and women’s rights we can never afford to be complacent – it is not a done deal. And the post-2015 agenda is a high-stakes game. But success is within our grasp if we build a broad base of support and work together with our allies in the global south to position gender equality as a “must have”.

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