Today, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, DSW is standing behind women and girls world-wide as we call on government leaders and political decision-makers to recognise and correct the staggering levels of discrimination and inequality facing half of the world’s population.
Millions of women and girls living in low- and middle-income countries continue, to this day, to face extreme levels of discrimination and are denied their right to a better life. Correcting this is not only important to ensure that everyone, regardless of gender, has the ability to achieve their full potential, but it has been evidenced that when women and girls can exercise their rights to access to education, skills, and jobs, there is a surge in prosperity, positive health outcomes, and greater freedom and well-being, not only of women but of their families, communities and eventually, their whole society.
Here is the situation we need to change:
- Employment: According to the UN, only 50 per cent of women of working age are in the labour force, compared to 77 per cent of men. Girls and women are often trapped in vulnerable jobs, with lower pay, little chances of promotion, and face discrimination in the workplace. This is not only true in countries of extreme poverty but is also a major issue for girls and women world-wide.
- Violence: Over one billion girls will suffer physical or sexual in their lifetime. Often, early pregnancies are the result of sexual violence or situations where they have been coerced such as in forced marriage.
- Discrimination: Women and girls living in poverty are prone to suffer lifelong discrimination with restricted access to decent work, social protection, property, training and education, and limited decision-making possibilities whether at home, in the community, or at the government level.
- Education: Over 31 million girls are not enrolled in primary school. Girls and adolescent women are often forced to drop-out due to child marriage, school fees, lack of sanitary resources, and the threat of sexual violence.
“When girls are well-educated and healthy, they can make a decisive contribution to the economic development of their own countries.” Renate Bähr, Executive Director, DSW.
- Unmet need: In the world today, over 220 million women and girls lack access to contraception. This unmet need removes their ability to determine the timing and spacing of their pregnancies.
- Adolescent pregnancy: Every day, over 20,000 girls under the age of 18 give birth in low- and middle-income countries. Often these pregnancies are unintended. Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are one of the leading cause of death for women between 15 to 19 years.
- Inequality: Lack of access to reproductive health services is not only linked to health systems, but also to the cultural and social context, gender inequality and lack of empowerment and respect for women’s rights. As a result, over 303,000 women and girls die from complications in pregnancy or childbirth each year – 99 percent of which occur in low- and middle-income countries.
- Disease: Women are disproportionately affected by poverty-related and neglected diseases such as HIV & AIDS, TB, and malaria. HIV & AIDS is one of the leading cause of death worldwide for women and girls in their productive years.
Although these are real issues facing women and girls the world over, they are certainly more pronounced in countries with severe rates of poverty. We need world leaders to begin to take this issue seriously and start to make necessary changes in their home countries. We have listed possible courses of action for each of the above issues and have illustrated what the world could look like once equality has been achieved. A better future and world is possible. But it is up to us, each of us, to make sure this happens!
- For more information about why this makes sense, check out our web page https://www.dsw.org/en/themes/women-and-girls-empowerment/.
- We also have two new success stories from young women from east Africa, who managed to take charge of their lives and are now inspiring other girls to follow them. https://www.dsw.org/en/2017/03/future-mine-nothing-can-stop/
A Brighter Tomorrow is Possible!
Sylvia is 14 years old and lives in Uganda. This short film tracks her hopes and dreams and explores what a difference having access to sexual and reproductive health and rights information, services and supplies can make in helping her reach her true potential.