OLYMPIA, Washington — Approximately 90% of countries still have at least one law that discriminates against women. #SheIsEqual was a powerful campaign that Global Citizen ran through 2018 and 2019, calling world leaders to implement new infrastructures and policies that address gender inequality. In addition, there have been several other important campaigns for gender equality.
Global Citizen’s #SheIsEqual Campaign
Leticia Pfeffer, director of the Global Policy & Private Sector Lead at Global Citizen, oversaw the #SheIsEqual campaign. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Pfeffer explained how the campaign’s objective was to “build broad-sector support for women and girls by mobilizing new financial and policy commitments aimed at improving women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights” The campaign #SheIsEqual also advocated for policies that provided “support for water, sanitation and hygiene for women, particularly through menstrual hygiene and ending hunger and malnutrition for women and girls.”
The campaign’s two-year run intended to mobilize $500 million in pledges toward gender equality and impact the lives of 20 million females around the globe. Although no longer an active campaign, #SheIsEqual is demonstrative of Global Citizen’s support for gender equality and “the empowerment of all women and girls as a critical pathway to achieve our mission of ending poverty by 2030.”
Eliminating Gender Discriminatory Laws
According to the World Bank, women only have 75% of the economic rights that men do. Widespread gender discriminatory laws regulate a woman’s ability to open a bank account, own property, manage their assets and even gain employment without the permission of their husband. Women in too many countries lack legal protection from abusive systems like marital rape, female genital mutilation and child marriage According to Global Citizen, it is estimated that children who marry before 16 are 31% more likely to live in poverty.
To address these gender discriminatory laws, Global Citizen secured 12 commitments, worth more than $51.9 million, to better the lives of more than 2.6 million females by improving their access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Thanks to Global Citizen and everyone who advocated and donated, economies like the Gambia have made efforts to end discrimination against women and ensure they are involved in government decisions going forward and that the legislation lifts women. As of 2018, 50% of the Gambia’s appointees to the supreme court are female and they repealed and amended all sexist laws.
Promoting WASH and Menstrual Hygiene Resources
In developing countries, girls continue to miss school or drop out completely because of their menstrual cycle. Lack of education, resources and lack of destigmatization around periods lead to this complicated dilemma.
The World Bank estimates that 11.5 million Ghanan women lack sanitation management solutions that sufficiently separate waste from human contact. Lacking separate toilets and clean water for cleansing and changing sanitary pads, girls have to travel home during their periods. As a result, girls who have to travel far for school often have to miss classes.
Sanitary pads aren’t always available in under-developed communities, and they are expensive when they are available. That’s where reusable pads come in. However, due to the terrible stigma around periods, females are forced to hide their menstrual supplies from others, resulting in poor washing or drying of pads. These forced unsanitary conditions lead to widespread vaginal and urinary infections.
In East Africa, four in five girls lack access to sanitary pads and health education. ZanaAfrica is an organization that aims to provide young girls in Kenya with the tools they need to “navigate” puberty in a safe way and step into their full potential, all while advocating to normalize menstruation. Since 2013, ZanaAfrica has supplied more than 50,000 females with mentors, health education, underwear and sanitary pads.
Promoting Quality Nutrition and Food Security
Females represent 60% of all the malnourished people around the globe. Gender inequality exacerbates food insecurity and poverty in humanitarian crises. As a factor of human rights, all people regardless of age and gender should have the right to healthy nutrition.
Women and men have different nutritional needs and yet men are usually the heads of agriculture and food systems. This gender inequality in nutrition is rampant and holding many countries back. When women are unhealthy due to lack of nutrition and kids are malnourished, economic and personal growth is hindered.
Acknowledging that the world must raise women’s roles in decision-making processes on agriculture, food systems and personal nutrition means a step forward in gender equality and food security. To do this, women must be given power in food systems and agriculture and organizations must cater to women’s “agency and autonomy.”
The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) educates communities about nutrition but also encourages women and girls to attend school to learn about food and nutrition. Their “girl-powered nutrition” initiative makes sure girls are educated by aspiring them to receive a WAGGGS nutrition badge, “take action” in community nutrition projects and “speak out” with female-led advocacy campaigns. WAGGGS works in Madagascar, Tanzania, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. So far, WAGGGS has reached 172,159 non-WAGGGS member girls.
Ensuring Access to Essential Medicine and Healthcare
Women are disproportionately impacted by the diseases imposed by poverty in developing countries. Somalia has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world. Due to the lack of sanitation, medical resources and vaccinations, one in seven children will not make it past age 5 years old.
Global Citizen secured ten commitments worth over $538 million with initiatives to end preventable deaths of children, mothers and newborns. These commitments, which affected more than 27 million lives, help address the diseases that have a disproportionate impact on women due to poverty.
Advocating for Access to Quality Education
Girls face barriers daily to education caused by violence, menstruation, poverty, stigmas and poor infrastructure. The focus of education still puts males over females. According to UNESCO, 130 million girls, ages 17 and under, are out of school and 15 million adolescent girls will never enter a classroom.
Making girls’ education a strategic development priority can help communities and nations out of poverty. Educated women tend to be stronger, healthier, earn higher incomes, marry later in life and have fewer children.
Countries like German, Denmark and Canada have made financial commitments to the Education Cannot Wait fund. Another commitment from the CBS network would produce a public service announcement campaign, worth $5 million, to spread the message of gender equality.
Legislation like the Keeping Girls In School Act and Girls LEAD Act focus on females’ education and empowerment. The World Bank aims to make education equal by offering stipends or scholarships for girls, hiring qualified female teachers, building inclusive and safe learning environments, addressing violence against females and making males join the discussion of gender equality practices.
The Future for Woman and Girls
The impactful #SheIsEqual campaign mobilized over $1 billion for girls and women and created a total of 36 commitments toward gender equality within the campaign’s first year. Through Global Citizen’s campaigning in 2019, the organization saw more than 679,000 actions taken for gender equality.
To advance as a whole, the entire world needs to recognize women in positions of power, treat women equally in schools, governments, health systems and the workplace. Women need to be empowered and given a choice. Education, empowerment and holding political leaders accountable are key to moving forward for gender equality.