At every point in history women have always struggled for recognition, rights and equality. This year is no different.
The journey for women in the UK, and globally, is far from over. Our incomes and ownership of resources still lag behind men’s. Our representation when important decisions are being made – whether in parliaments, boardrooms, or negotiating tables – is paltry. The demands on our time, particularly from unpaid work and care, are overwhelming. And one in three of us will experience violent assault in our lifetime.
But I firmly believe the tables are turning. This year could be the year when the world comes together to say enough is enough and the tens-of-thousands of women, men and children who came out in support – and celebration – of International Women’s Day from across the world earlier this week show that support for the cause of equality has never been stronger.
In September, UN member states will sign up to a global set of goals – the Sustainable Development Goals. They will form the framework by which countries will work towards the shared goals of ending extreme poverty and combatting inequalities.
Action/2015 has mobilised thousands of organisations globally to highlight the historic potential of the Sustainable Development Goals being agreed in September and at the UN Climate Change Summit in December to deliver an end to extreme poverty.
These agreements could initiate life changing advances for billions of women and girls around the world. Currently on the table are commitments to eliminate violence and sexual exploitation; end harmful practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation; ensure full and effective representation of women in all forms of decision making; to abolish discriminatory laws and to give women full access to education, health, resources and technology.
In terms of fulfilling and delivering on the rights that women and girls have over generations struggled and fought for, these commitments are truly unprecedented.
And let us not forget that these are global goals, they are not just about assisting the developing world: they will apply here in the UK too. There is a lot we can learn from Rwanda about women in leadership and from Brazil about social protection which decreases inequality and promotes growth. We are all in this together, that in itself is ground breaking for a global development agreement.
None of this is guaranteed however. Already a number of governments are pushing for some of the gender commitments to be dropped from the agreements. Sexual and reproductive rights, and unpaid domestic work and care have always been contentious. As a lifelong campaigner for gender equality, I recognise the revolutionary potential of enshrining these rights globally and I am not willing to let them go easily.
Action/2015 and the GREAT initiative are calling on women and men to recognise that we are on the cusp of delivering historic agreements that could genuinely change the world for billions of people. We must keep gender equality on the agenda until the ink on those agreements is dry.
This year, we must come together to urge world leaders to put gender equality at the heart of the international agenda, and to deliver the ambitious commitments that we have been fighting for for generations.