Turning Words in Impact with Women’s Rights

As the UN General Assembly meets for the start of its 69th session, the role of women and girls is a hot topic. At the Social Good Summit, several panels discussed not only the importance of gender equality but how to turn awareness into concrete action.

Two panels hosted today highlighted the importance of these goals as well as how we can move from simple words to actual results. Introducing the “rockstars of international development”, Juju Chang welcomed UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, former Education Minister for Mozambique and children’s right advocate Graca Machel, and UN Foundation CEO Kathy Calvin. All three of these women are on the frontline of tis struggle, but also represent women at the highest levels of international affairs. Based on their discussion it is clear how far we have come in advancing the rights of women and girls, but how much more is left to be done.

A second panel with UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Tribal Planet CEO Jeff Martin, and Tara Abrahams of Girl Rising directly addressed how to achieve this. One result of the increased focus on women over the last 15 years is issue awareness is no longer a major issue; now comes the much harder task of bringing about actual, measurable change. This requires not only action by everyone, but also building a framework that allows us to measure what actions are achieving and where.

The overwhelming theme of both discussions is that while in a broad sense the status of women has improved since the creation of the Millennium Development Goals, there is still room and a vital need to gain more information and focus on the nuances of this struggle. While national statistics may show that child marriage is decreasing, a look at specific regions within that nation may still show that child marriage has not decreased there, or still exists at a much higher than normal rate. By developing a framework to measure these results on a local and regional level, not just a national and international level, we can gain a better idea of where more work is needed. But any substantial change will inevitably have to involve the other half of the global population – men and boys – in order to ensure the gains made are sustainable and inclusive.

This is the motivation behind the HeForShe campaign , an outreach program launched by UN Women to help men and boys form in global solidarity to support gender equality. Mlambo-Ngcuka aims have 1 billion men sign he campaign commitment over the next year to support women and girl’s rights, recognizing that women do not exist in a vacuum; by engaging with their fathers, brothers, husbands, friends and communities, the work being done on a global level can ensure that a rising tide truly does raise all boats, even in the smallest villages.

Engaging with men is just one way to bring concrete action to these goals but it illustrates the next stage in this fight. From working with Silicon Valley to create new data analytics to using storytelling to follow a girl’s story beyond a simple tweet, no longer is it enough to look at issues such as child marriage, domestic violence, and wage equality discretely; holistic approaches, with people taking personal responsibility and personal commitments, is what is needed now.