YOUTH CONTRIBUTION: The Commonwealth Youth Council welcomes another contribution from Wabwire W’a Waheirire, Executive Director, Youth Connect-Uganda on our theme of the month for June: Gender Equality.
The push for policies to improve gender equality at the global level is getting new impetus through the Sustainable Development Goals. SDG No. 5 is devoted to gender equality and aims to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. The goal’s detailed targets refer to a range of challenges, such as discrimination of women, violence against women, reproductive health, ownership rights and technology. Global progress in reaching these targets has been uneven.
Despite impressive progress in enrolling girls in primary education, for example, gender equality in many other domains is still in far reach in the developing world.
The evidence is clear: When countries value girls and women as much as boys and men; when they invest in their health, education, and skills training; when they give women greater opportunities to participate in the economy, manage incomes, own and run businesses—the beneﬁts extend far beyond individual girls and women to their children and families, to their communities, to societies and economies at large.
The Commonwealth fraternity needs to adopt a pragmatic Gender Equality Strategy. This strategy should chart out an ambitious path toward improving opportunities for women and girls because it is not only morally right but critical to economic development.
It should be informed by months of consultations in a number of member countries, with governments, civil society organizations, the private sector, and other key stakeholders taking part. The new strategy should be built on robust evidence that persistent gaps between men and women impose real and signiﬁcant costs globally that can be addressed.
One area where we can reduce the cost of gender inequality is by expanding access to ﬁnance. Women are barred in some countries from opening bank accounts or lines of credit and often don’t own the kind of property that banks request as collateral. Promising projects to overcome these constraints include recognizing property such as merchandise and other movable collateral that would allow them to access credit. And for those who only have limited proof of identity, a problem that often begins with failing to register the birth of a girl, other documents like a utility bill could help women open bank accounts, which have been strongly linked to poverty reduction.
Our new gender strategies should border on four objectives, all of them indispensable to a more equal world: reducing maternal mortality and closing remaining health and education gaps; creating more and better jobs for women and for men; closing the gender gap in ownership and control of key assets such as land, housing, technology and ﬁnance; and enhancing women’s ability to make themselves heard and direct the course of their own lives .They should focus on promising interventions that achieve tangible, real-world results—results that transform lives and genuinely level the playing ﬁeld and create opportunities for all .
In Uganda, for example, investments in family planning led to improvements in women’s health, declines in child mortality, and increases in female labour force participation. This is projected to boost growth by almost 2 percent over the next decade. In Latin America and the Caribbean, women’s labour force participation increased 7 percentage points from 2000-2012, and Bank research attributes to this a signiﬁcant 30 percent reduction in the region’s extreme poverty and 28 percent reduction in inequality over the last decade.
In low-income countries closing productivity gaps between females and males in sectors such as agriculture adds to growth in the overall economy. One of our most recent studies shows that increasing female farmer access to land, capital and ﬁnancial services would not only lead to real GDP growth, but also ensure a sharp drop in the share of people who go hungry
Gender inequality remains one of the biggest obstacles to shared prosperity. No country, no economy, no company or community can meet today’s challenges or achieve its potential until all its people can achieve theirs. We look forward raising our game in ways that get us to equal.
The Commonwealth Youth Council welcomes any contributions by young people to create further awareness of the future youth want.