A video went viral yesterday. You may have seen it. It is a remake of the famous 90’s girl-power song “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls. In the video, girls and women from different places of the world sing to the famous tune while showing signs and posters of what they “really really want” for girls.
This campaign has been put together by The Global Goals, an initiative that is working to raise awareness, popular support and global action for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 17 SDGs were adopted by the United Nations in 2015, and each of the goals contain specific global targets to be achieved by 2030. Goal #5 is for gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls.
At first she looks like any bride: wearing a white wedding dress with her face covered with the wedding veil and carrying a bridal bouquet. Except that she is no ordinary bride. She is being sold.
As she removes her veil from her face, her forehead appears marked with a barcode. Her left eye is badly bruised and a big scratch on her cheek is as red as a war wound.
The girl in the music video “Brides for Sale” is portrayed by Sonita Alizadeh, an Afghan teen rapper who sings in the video about the ordeal many girls in Afghanistan go through when are sold by their families to marry at an early age in return of money.
But why is she singing about this issue?
“You make me proud to spell my name W-O-M-A-N.” - Maya Angelou
On the morning of June 14, 2016, I found myself surrounded by 5,000 women as part of the first day of the first United State of Women Summit convened by The White House at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The #StateofWomen movement brought together activists from all 50 US states and from around the world. The Summit was a result of President Obama’s establishment of the White House Council on Women and Girls, which was initiated seven and a half years ago.
The two-day gathering focused on key gender equality issues including economic empowerment, health and wellness, educational opportunities, violence against women, entrepreneurship and innovation, as well as leadership and civic engagement. Participants had the opportunity to celebrate their achievements and to be inspired to meet the challenges yet to come. The stimulating plenary sessions were mixed with solutions seminars, entertainment, and exhibitions. The Summit featured speakers such as First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Nancy Pelosi, Kerry Washington, Patricia Arquette, Tory Burch, and Shonda Rhimes among many others. The MCs of the Summit were two very powerful women’s right advocates: Valerie Jarrett and Tina Tchen. The stimulating plenary sessions were mixed with solutions seminars, entertainment, and exhibitions.
This refrain captures the common sentiment in Armenia, and is at the heart of the growing issue of sex imbalances in the country. , with 114 baby boys born for every 100 baby girls, above the natural rate of 105. We recently met with groups across Armenia to dig deeper into the root causes of sex preferences, with the hope of helping find an effective policy solution.
This issue has long affected countries like China, India and others in Asia, but it has emerged only recently in the South Caucasus. In Armenia, the ratio of boy births to girl births started increasing in the 1990s, when economic disruption and the desire to have smaller families, combined with the availability of sex detection technology, led many families to choose sex selection in the quest to have a son. The result? A generation of “missing girls,” as Amartya Sen first called this phenomenon.
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The entire world is hypnotized by the struggle of the European continent with the rapidly escalating numbers of refugees and migrants from Africa and the Middle East. Yet, only a handful reflect about the plight of those who stay behind, entangled in violence and persecution, or those who remain in refugee camps. Some believe those 'left behind' are the solution and saviors to the future of the Middle East and Africa, and one great way to help them is to give them bicycles.
“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.” – Susan B. Anthony
In 2015 alone, the UN Refugee Agency reported that of the 520,957 people attempting to cross the Mediterranean, 2,980 died or went missing. Eighteen percent of the migrants are children and 13% are women. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, an estimated 200,000 additional refugees are still planning to make the sea journey by the end of 2015. So, the seismic human waves are far from subsiding in the region.
Today, there are a series of internal and regional armed conflicts around the world, most of which are concentrated in two regions: the Middle East and Africa. The desperate attempts by so many Syrians to flee Assad regime’s and the Islamic state’s terror by escaping to security in Europe has caught the world’s attention. However, Syrians are not alone in deserving compassion. Although international interest in Afghanistan has waned and most foreign troops are gone, the war there is only getting worse. In addition, there is an influx of desperate refugees from Eritrea, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Gambia, and Bangladesh who are just as entitled to refugee status as the others.
While humanity is being washed ashore in the Mediterranean Sea, the treacherous passage does not resemble a migration, but a human tsunami. The departing refugees and migrants leave a vacuum, as the most skilled, able-bodied, and educated keep leaving the continent, most of them are males. This leaves females, elderly and disabled behind and entangled in the local violence. The families left behind often count on reuniting with their loved ones in the near future or hope to receive remittances to support their livelihoods as they try to rebuild their communities.
What should the world do with these gutted societies? The global community should invest in women power, leadership opportunities for women, and in modifying the social order with regards to female emancipation on the continent. We must pay immediate attention and react with empathy and solidarity.
For far too long, women and girls in Africa have faced discrimination and inequalities in the workforce which have not only hurt them, but their families, communities and their countries as a whole. As we begin 2015, the African Union’s Year of Women’s Empowerment, one thing is clear: we will not reduce poverty without working to achieve gender equality.
While most governments in Africa acknowledge that empowering women and girls is a key contributor to economic development, the fertility transition in Africa ─ an important factor in sustained economic growth ─ has been much slower than in other regions of the world. Access to family planning and maternal health services – as well as education for girls – typically results in improved economic opportunity for women and lower fertility. Some governments in Africa are seeking innovative ways to accelerate the demographic transition. In Niger, for example, where the fertility rate (7.6 children per woman) is among the highest in the world, “School for Husbands”, an education program delivered by trusted, traditional community leaders are flourishing across the country and highlighting the benefits of family planning and reproductive health.
Change. Global leaders galvanize nations in pursuit of it, advocates demand that policymakers facilitate it, and I’d suggest that we all strive to be a part of it. As the saying goes, change is “easier said than done.” But young people don’t seem to see it that way. Not only are young people calling for social, political and economic change, but they are being the change.
Today’s generation of young people is the largest the world has ever seen. In fact, over half the world’s population is under the age of 30. To some, this number may seem daunting – but the way I see it, that’s more than 3.5 billion young people representing 3.5 billion opportunities for change.
We know that when you invest in young people – particularly in girls – the returns are tremendous. Girls with access to education and health care, including youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health information and services, are more likely to marry later and, once mothers, are more likely to send their children to school and provide them with health care.
And the impact flows beyond families and communities: By enrolling just 10% more girls in school, a country can increase its gross domestic product by approximately 3%. In short, when you invest in girls there are ripple effects throughout society – and everybody wins.
According the World Bank’s latest report on the state of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) research in Africa, African researchers produce only 1 percent of the world’s research.
As shown in this video, unlocking the talent of women and girls could improve the quality and quantity of scientific research and tech innovation in Africa.
On 22 July 2014, the UK and UNICEF co-hosted the first Girl Summit to mobilize domestic and international support to end child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) as well as female genital mutilation (FGM) within a generation. The connection between education and these two practices is critical in efforts to ending them.
The education a girl receives is the strongest predictor of the age she will marry. Child marriage is associated with lower levels of schooling for girls in every region of the world. FGM, likewise, is connected to education, albeit indirectly. FGM usually takes place before education is completed and sometimes before it commences. However, FGM prevalence levels are generally lower among women with higher education, indicating that the FGM status of a girl correlates with her educational attainment later in in life.
When it comes to helping young women in Africa with both economic and social opportunity, what does the evidence tell us? Broadcaster Georges Collinet sat down with researchers and policymakers to discuss the hard evidence behind two programs that have succeeded in giving girls a better chance at getting started in their adult lives.