By Melissa Hillebrenner, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Melissa Hillebrenner is the director of the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up campaign. The views expressed are her own.
Thursday marks 100 days since more than 200 schoolgirls were abducted from their families and community in northeast Nigeria, a reminder of the horrors and hardships many girls face when trying to get an education. It’s difficult for many of us to imagine what it would be like to be taken from a place that is supposed to be safe. Sadly, this situation is not unique to Nigeria.
In too many communities around the world, girls are criticized for going to school or denied their right to education completely. Worldwide, more than 60 million girls of primary and secondary school age are not in school.
I just returned from a trip to Guatemala, where I met Teresa Vivia, an engaging 16 year-old who lives in the town of Santa Maria Chiquimula. Vivia’s parents both passed away, and she lives with her sister-in-law. She wants to go to school, but had to stop going so she could take care of her nephews and the house.
Lack of access to education is just one barrier facing girls like Teresa Vivia. According to data that UNICEF released earlier this week, "more than 700 million women alive today were married as children. More than 1 in 3 – or some 250 million – were married before 15." Many have to drop out of school to manage household chores, are vulnerable to abuse and are often deprived of the information, tools and services to plan their families. This has tragic consequences: Girls who have children as children face higher risks of complications from pregnancy and childbirth. In fact, these complications are a leading cause of death for adolescent girls in low- and middle-income countries.
By Janet Fleischman, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Janet Fleischman is a senior associate at the CSIS Global Health Policy Center. You can follow them @CSIS. The views expressed are her own.
The international outrage over Boko Haram’s abduction of schoolgirls in Nigeria has grown since the story first hit the news; mothers in Nigeria took action and celebrities from Angelina Jolie to First Lady Michelle Obama have made their voices heard on the issue. With mainstream attention finally focused on why the education, health, and empowerment of women and girls matters to Americans, it is time for the Obama administration to reinforce its commitment to these issues and elevate them as central to U.S. foreign policy.
President Obama’s first term got off to a promising start for global women’s issues. Within months of taking office, the administration launched unprecedented initiatives focused on women, girls, and gender equality. This was reflected in important and concrete ways: policies designed to prevent gender-based violence were promulgated across U.S. government agencies; U.S. development projects were required to undertake gender analyses as part of the initial program design; and women’s engagement and protection during crisis situations were made part of peace and security deliberations.
These actions were based on a growing body of evidence demonstrating that investments focused on women and girls – maternal health services, voluntary family planning, access to HIV services, education for girls, economic empowerment, preventing and responding to gender-based violence – not only are critical to improving health outcomes, but also produce substantial positive returns in poverty reduction, development, and economic growth. That is why, even in a difficult budgetary environment, as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has often said: “Investing in women and girls is not only the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do.”
According to the International Monetary Fund, increasing women's employment rates around the globe could result in huge gains. If women worked at the same level as men in Egypt, the country's GDP could grow by 34 percent. The United Arab Emirates would see an estimated 12 percent boost. Germany and France 4 percent...and even the United States could see 5 percent more growth.
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By Global Public Square staff
If you watch even just one episode of "Mad Men," it's clear that since the 1960's, women in the workplace have come a long way. But a new study shows that they still have a long way to go.
Women today make up about half the American workforce, a big leap from the 1960's – the Mad Men era – when they constituted about a third. But, for example, only 23 Fortune 500 companies have CEOs who are women. Or look at average wages – in 1963, a woman in the United States made 59 cents for every dollar a man made. Today, women have made good gains, but on average they make 77 cents for every dollar a male counterpart makes.
The most startling data on women in the workplace, though, came from a study just out from two left-leaning think tanks – the Center for American Progress and the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
It turns out that the most important economic trend of the last 30 years might not be high tech...but rather high employment of women. If women hadn't entered the workforce – by the millions – over the last three decades, the study says, the U.S. economy would be about 11 percent smaller.
Fareed speaks with Tina Brown, founder of the Women in the World summit and former editor-in-chief of 'Vanity Fair', about whether having more women in powerful positions will lead to more peaceful societies. Watch the video for the full panel.
The one crucial distinguishing feature it seems to me that is at the heart of this is motherhood. To what extent do you think that shapes a woman's perspective as being different from a man?
I think a tremendous amount because I think that women have that extra nurturing gene, where they're trying to create a world in which their children can flourish. And therefore, they have in a sense more invested in creating a peaceful atmosphere.
It's very interesting at the moment, actually, how there are many women in Pakistan and in the Middle East now who are coming together against the whole question of Islamic terrorism. And there are – Sisters against Extremism is one organization, which is having quite an impact in the Middle East at the moment, which is about women who are getting together and really trying to talk to children about not becoming radicalized, and that are bonding together as women, as sisters, as mothers. And there's that impetus.
Also on the south side of Chicago, you're now seeing mothers bonding together and trying to come together to create programs and create initiatives that actually create more peaceful atmospheres amongst this gang warfare etc that's going on.
So I do think that women are more invested in that. And you saw it in Liberia also when the women came together and wanted to end that civil war. So I think these are the things that you're seeing, and I think you're going to see more and more of it as women rise and really are in charge.
Fareed speaks with Arianna Huffington, editor in chief of the Huffington Post media group and author of Thrive, about the role of women in the workplace. Watch the video for the full panel discussion on the issue.
Do you think that there are these traits that are different between men and women and that they manifest themselves…because you're dealing with a lot of technology people at AOL, and that's a very male dominated world.
It is. But that's changing…We’re living in the middle of a perfect storm, where we can see that the old way of doing things, the way that men have built workplaces, fueled by stress, live deprivation, exhaustion, is not working. It's not working for women, and it's not working for men. And so women are taking the lead in a way in what I consider in my new book on the "third women's revolution."
If you think of the first women's revolution being getting the vote. The second being giving us access to all the corridors of power and the top of every field, the third one is changing the workplace. Changing the world, in which women are competing, which I believe is going to be the fastest way to get more women at the top. Because right now women are paying a heavier price in stressful jobs. The data that is out, came out last year, is unequivocal, that women in stressful jobs have a 40 percent greater threat of heart disease and a 60 percent greater risk of diabetes.
So one of the reasons they're not competing as much at the top is because they know that we internalize stress differently and it's not working for us. And because of the way it's not working for anybody, there is more of a demand now to change the way we work and the way we live our lives.
By Amanda Klasing, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Amanda Klasing is a women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. The views expressed are her own.
This Saturday is World Water Day – a day the United Nations and its member countries have devoted to promoting sustainable management of the world's water resources. It seems fitting that it falls in March, women’s history month, because the lives of women and their families are inextricably linked to access to clean water and sanitation.
Over the last eight years, I’ve spent countless hours speaking with women and girls in Haiti about how access to clean water and sanitation shapes their lives.
Long before the 2010 earthquake, women told me how poor drainage and large-scale erosion left many homes, communities, and agricultural plots at risk of flooding. When hurricanes and tropical storms hit, they had watched as their homes, their families’ crops (and livelihood), and the only roads that connected them to the rest of society washed away toward the ocean.
By Farahnaz Ispahani, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Farahnaz Ispahani, a former member of Pakistan’s parliament, is currently a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
International Women’s Day, being marked Saturday, is as good a time as any not just to celebrate how much progress has been made, but also how much farther there is to go on the road toward guaranteeing women’s rights. Sadly, for women in at least one country, the journey is getting increasingly arduous.
For decades, the status and rights of women in Pakistan have been a casualty of concessions made by the state to those clamoring for what they describe as Islamic rule. But with the Taliban’s call for the imposition of Sharia law during current peace talks between the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Pakistani government, there are growing concerns that women’s freedoms will be further eroded.
The reality is that Pakistan’s women have no real voice in the government’s talks with the Taliban – not only is there a lack of representation on the government’s negotiating team, but negotiators from both sides represent a similar conservative religious viewpoint. And despite some changes in the negotiating procedure, and the men who will negotiate, the government remains committed to working with the Taliban instead of fighting them."
By Erna Solberg and Hannah Godefa, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Erna Solberg is prime minister of Norway and co-chair of the U.N. Secretary General’s Millennium Development Goals Advocates. Hannah Godefa is UNICEF National Ambassador for Ethiopia. The views expressed are their own. This is the latest in a series of articles ahead of a special GPS show from Davos this Sunday.
As the humanitarian crises in South Sudan and Syria and Central African Republic continue to unfold, girls are once again caught in the cross-fire. Murdered by soldiers, killed or sexually assaulted as they flee, their lives are being ravaged by wars they did not start. Once again, they are the victims of somebody else’s dispute, subjected to sexual violence by those hoping to achieve their military and political goals.
How much more are we willing to stand?
Currently 28.5 million children in conflict-affected countries are out of school, more than half of them are girls. It is not just their security, but their education and hope for a better life that are being ruined.
By Elise Young, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Elise Young is Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs at Women Thrive Worldwide, a Washington, DC-based advocacy group dedicated to women’s equality. The views expressed are her own.
It’s a long way from Benin to the family Thanksgiving table where I grew up outside of Philadelphia. But the people of this West African nation are never far from my mind, especially as I gather with my friends and family for Thanksgiving.
The daughter of a minister, I’m thankful for the many blessings in my life and especially for the food that I have to eat on a daily basis.
Not everyone is as lucky as I’ve been. Around the globe, nearly 840 million people are now considered “food insecure.” Almost 60 percent are women and girls – a despite the fact that women farmers actually produce most of the food in developing countries. Hunger is especially pronounced in developing countries like Benin, where one in three households is considered food insecure.
By Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Yvonne Chaka Chaka is a South African singer and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. The views expressed are her own.
Access to education, the right to make choices about your own body – these are things many of us take for granted. But the reality for many women and young people in developing countries is very different.
Denied rights to some very basic choices – such as how many children to have and when, whether to stay in school, and how to participate in their country’s economy – the story for young people is frequently one of opportunities curtailed. For some, this is about culture, custom, economics or just denial of basic human rights. For others it is as simple, yet life changing, as not having access to modern contraceptive methods.
I am in Ethiopia this week with politicians, researchers, young leaders, civil society groups and policymakers – a real mixture of organizations gathered together with one key objective – trying to change the way action is taken on access to family planning.
The International Family Planning Conference 2013 will showcase innovation and examine what needs to be done to enable nations to tackle the challenges they face. Why does this matter? Because more than 220 million women in developing countries lack access to contraceptives, information, and services.
By Saadia Zahidi, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Saadia Zahidi heads the Women Leaders and Gender Parity Program at the World Economic Forum and is founder and co-author of the annual Global Gender Gap Report, released October 25. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
Gender inequality is good economics. Yes, you read that correctly. While we know that individuals, economies and societies would benefit from gender parity in the long term, gender inequality is often a perfectly rational choice for individuals in the short term.
Gender imbalances, and their resulting economic consequences, are still startlingly visible everywhere, from the developed world to emerging markets. In Brazil, more women attend university than men, but women earn only a third of what men make for the same job. In the United Arab Emirates, three times as many women go to university as men, but half as many women participate in the labor force. Across Europe, women outperform men academically and enter the workforce in similar numbers, but occupy less than 15 percent of board positions. In Pakistan, where I grew up, a girl has only a 29 percent chance of making it into secondary school, compared to 38 percent for a boy.
There is irrefutable evidence on the economic contribution that women can make, from the familial and community level, to research showing that companies get a diversity dividend, to the World Economic Forum’s own global data on the correlations between gender and competitiveness, released this month. By some estimates, gender parity in employment could raise the GDP of countries such as the United Arab Emirates by 12 percent, Japan by 9 percent and the United States by 5 percent. While many institutions are constantly pointing to these potential collective gains, progress remains dismally slow. So what’s holding us back?