As people across the globe celebrate International Women’s Day (8 March), United Nations member states are in discussions that could prove to be the most important negotiations for women in history, according to the global citizens’ movement action/2015.
Two unique political processes – one that will lead to the adoption later this year of the Sustainable Development Goals and another that is expected to endorse the first climate treaty in a generation – offer an unprecedented opportunity to dramatically transform the lives of women and girls and fulfill their human rights.
The UN Summit for the adoption of the Post-2015 development agenda – a framework that will succeed the Millennium Development Goals which expire at the end of this year – will take place in New York from 28-30 September. The United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP 21, will take place in Paris from 30 November – 11 December with the goal of adopting a universal climate agreement, the first since Kyoto in 1992, to limit greenhouse gases. Heads of state are expected to participate in both summits.
Some of the advances that could be agreed to this year at these summits include a commitment to zero tolerance to violence against women, the repeal of discriminatory gender laws, ending child marriage,committing to gender equality and ensuring that the 31 million girls of primary school age who are not in school receive an education.
Ana Alcalde, an action/2015 activist in Spain who is also director of Alianza por la Solidaridad, notes that 2015 is a pivotal year for women and girls: “We have to urge world leaders to take serious action for women in 2015. The Sustainable Development Goals and the climate negotiations are a unique opportunities to make women’s human rights a reality by 2030. It can be one of the defining legacies of our generation and the culmination of more than 150 years of history of struggle and empowerment within the women’s movement.”
The action/2015 coalition is calling on world leaders to deliver ambitious agreements that fulfil women’s rights not only as an issue of justice but also as the key strategy to tackle poverty, inequalities and climate change at two pivotal summits in 2015. If ambitious agreements are made and kept, they could transform the lives of billions of women and girls.
Pierre Klein from ATD Ireland said: “Never has a single year offered so much. Irish Government, with its leader position in the preparation of the post 2015 agenda has the chance to commit to a future where everyone is lifted from extreme poverty, where women and girls achieve equality, where we save our planet from the worst effects of climate change. We have to seize this opportunity to ensure that we advance the most forward thinking agenda for women and girls and for boys and men, everywhere.”
Ambitious agreements at the UN summit to adopt Sustainable Development Goals and a global climate treaty could potentially deliver transformative changes for women and girls, such as:
- Repealing and rewriting discriminatory laws that prevent women in every corner of the globe from enjoying their civil and economic rights.
- Providing convenient access to clean drinking water and safe toilets, which would save women and girls, on an annual basis, nearly 150 billion hours that are currently spent collecting water and finding private areas to defecate.
- Ending child marriage, which would transform the lives of 15 million girls every year who are married before the age of 18.
- Increasing girls’ future incomes. For every extra year of education received by the 31 million girls of primary school age who are out of school, their future wages can increase by 20%.
- Saving lives. If all girls completed their primary education, 189,000 women’s lives that are currently lost during pregnancy and childbirth would be saved. Ending the under-nutrition of women and girls during pregnancy would help to save the lives of an additional 800,000 new-born babies every year.
- Providing access to the same productive resources as men. This could increase women’s farm yields by nearly a third and raise total agricultural output in developing countries by as much as 4%.
- Ensuring healthy lives for all at all ages which could help end the cycle which sees a young woman infected with HIV every minute.
- Eliminating violence against women and girls. Currently, up to 70 percent cent of women experience violence in their lifetime.Violence against women is one of the biggest contributors to ill health and premature death amongst women aged 15-44. Every year 2 million girls between the ages of 5 and 15 are coerced, abducted, sold or trafficked into the illegal sex market.
- Stopping female genital mutilation, which affects 3 million girls each year
- Giving women greater control of additional income, which would increase family spending on food, health, clothing and education for children.
- Addressing the massive under-representation of women in political decision making. Currently just over one in five parliamentarians, 17% of ministers and just 15 of 193 heads of government are women.
- Closing the 40% global gender gap for economic participation and opportunity by introducing policies and legislation to promote gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels.
- Endingthedeaths of 23,100 womenwho die everyyeardue to unsafeabortions and more than 5 millionwho are severelyinjured, thevastmajority in countrieswhereaccess to safeabortionispenalisedorrestrictedbylaw.
- Over 60 countries could change their laws to offer women equal rights with men to acquire, change or retain their nationality.
- Reducing carbon emissions that contribute to weather calamities. Natural disasters kill on average more women than men, according to a 2014 World Health Organization report; this effect is most pronounced in places where the economic and social status of woman and girls is lowest.
The UN summits to adopt Sustainable Development Goals and a global climate treaty come the same year as the milestone 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration commitments to advance women’s human rights and empowerment. These summits offer a once in a generation opportunity to translate these commitments into real and tangible action.
About the Women’s Action Team of Action/2015
The Women’s Action Team is a campaign group within Action2015, composed of Women’s organizations, activists, NGOs and movements from different countries who aim at encouraging women groups to help shape and lead the campaign in order to ensure Women’s Rights are at the heart of the Action/2015.