Focus on Gender Equality

At first glance, gender equality may look like a women’s issue, but it actually touches all lives—women, men, girls, and boys. Gender inequality takes many different forms, from women making less money for doing the same work as men to the 62 million girls around the world who are not enrolled in school. In many countries, women are barred from voting or holding political office. Although women make up 40% of the agricultural labor force globally, less than 20% own the land they work.

Image of a scale showing an icon of a man on the left and a woman on the right indicating gender equality.

The goal of gender equality is to ensure that women and girls have the same rights and protections as men and boys, including equal access to healthcare, education, and jobs, and the ability to actively participate in the political process.

“The reality is, if we do nothing, it will take 75 years before women can expect to be paid the same as men for the same work,” said UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson when introducing the UN Women’s HeForShe Campaign, a program that promotes men and boys acting as change agents for global gender equality. “At current rates, it won’t be until 2086 before all rural African girls will be able to receive a secondary education.”

At Walden’s 53rd Commencement Ceremony, former foreign minister and Somaliland first lady Dr. Edna Adan Ismail shared her story of making education for all girls a basic human right. “I can encourage girls to go to school and say to those who hesitate, ‘You think I could have built this hospital without education? Now just think what you can do with education now that you have seen what an old woman can do after retirement!’”

When women and girls have the same rights and resources as their male counterparts, the whole society benefits. For example, when all women are able to be part of a country’s workforce, national economic growth increases significantly. One study found that if the gap between men's and women’s participation in the workforce in Latin America were closed, the gross domestic product per person would be approximately 16% higher.

Women’s employment also raises household incomes, reducing poverty rates now and for future generations. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research found if American women were paid the same as men, the poverty rate for all working women would be cut in half, dropping from 8.1% to 3.9%, and the poverty rate for working single mothers would fall from 28.7% to 15%.

What you can do:

AWARENESS: U.S. Agency for International Development offers a global perspective on gender equality and its effects. The White House Council on Women and Girls blog provides background on issues of gender equality in the U.S.

ACTION: Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls highlights opportunities and ideas for ways to get involved in projects that help girls in the U.S. and around the world, such as donating much-needed sanitary products to homeless shelters and knitting blankets for Syrian refugees.

ADVOCACY: Equality Now provides information about global gender equality issues and how to take action on issues affecting women and girls, such as working with partners to pass the International Violence Against Women Act.

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