Accelerating Women's Equality
March 8 is International Women's Day. Celebrated around the world, this day is set aside to honor achievements of women, raise awareness against bias, promote gender parity and take action for equality. It is based upon collective activism and the solidarity that comes with taking shared ownership of being contributors to the desired change.
International Women's Day helps create a gender-balanced world by bringing attention to areas where change in women's rights and equal opportunity is still needed, such as:
- access to education.
- voting rights.
- employment opportunities and compensation.
- volence against women.
- representation in government and business.
Why Does Gender Equality Matter?
Women and girls represent half of the world’s population and half of its potential. Yet, there are still many countries that have not yet constitutionally guaranteed equality between their male and female citizens.
According to the United Nations, gender equality is a precondition for advancing development and reducing poverty, with empowered women being most capable of improving the prospects for the next generation.
Gender equality matters because "inequality between men and women penalizes societies at all levels of development. The violence, injustice and stereotypes suffered by too many women in their personal or professional lives undermine society as a whole, and deprive of it considerable potential for creativity, strength and confidence in the future."1
Gender equality matters because it is a fundamental human right and a necessity for an unfettered and prosperous world. Providing women and girls equal access to education, health care, employment opportunities, political representation, and economic influence benefits everyone.
Education is a Foundation for Opportunity
Gender inequality has many faces. The educational, economic, social, and political underrepresentation of women all contribute to gender inequality, and each factor influences the next.
Nelson Mandela once famously claimed "Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world." Starting at the most basic level of education, there is a clear need for better inclusion of women. Literacy rates remain unequal in almost one in five countries in the world. Of the 114 million young people still lacking basic literacy, nearly two-thirds of them are women.
Giving children access to a quality education is one of the greatest tools for fighting poverty. It's particularly important for girls.
Educated girls receive the skills, knowledge and self-confidence to be better parents, workers and members of society. According to UNICEF, "an educated woman is likely to marry at a later age and have fewer children . . . And the children of an educated mother are more likely to survive. In India, for example, the infant mortality rate of babies whose mothers have received primary education is half that of children whose mothers are illiterate." Employment opportunities open up for educated women, and the chances for career success improve.
Educational support is the number one benefit cited by many children we assist,2 and independent research conducted by Dr. Bruce Wydick, a developmental economist, confirms large and statistically significant impacts on educational outcomes for children in our Child Sponsorship Program.
Compassion-supported children stay in school 1 to 1.5 years longer than their non-sponsored peers, are 27 to 40 percent more likely to finish secondary education and are 50 to 80 percent more likely to graduate college than those not enrolled in the program.1
One reason for this is that sponsored children have their school fees, uniforms, books, and supplies provided for. Without this help, many kids would not be able to attend school.
When Women are Included
Women have a lot of talent and perspective to offer the world. Excluding them from equal participation in society is a loss to their communities and countries and hinders societal development.
Women are vastly underrepresented in the global labor market. They face a lack of exposure to jobs in modern fields and occupations that have traditionally been male-dominated. Females are even underrepresented in basic civic engagement and local leadership positions.
USAID reports that governments tend to be more democratic and responsive to citizens when women are included and participating in the political process. With women accounting for half of the human capital in any nation’s economy, restricting the spheres in which they are able to contribute stagnates potential growth and development. Additionally, women tend to be more generous with the benefits they receive from their work. Sharing with their community and supporting their family are high priorities for most women. This means women effectively multiply the impact of any benefit far beyond her own well-being.
Barriers to gender equality and opportunity have historically lead to underrepresentation of women in the United States and developing countries alike. The following video shares the story of Margaret Makhoha, a formerly sponsored girl who became a member of the Ugandan Parliament to use her platform to give back to her community.