ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF

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The 68th Annual Commission on the Status of Women: a unique opportunity to advance parity in leadership

Our world is beset by intersecting crises and challenges that are leaving women at risk of poverty and all forms of hardships.

Economic and geopolitical instability, as well as environmental and health disasters, are having a debilitating effect on women and girls living in poor households and certain rural communities. It is currently estimated that over 10% of women around the world live in extreme poverty. If this trend continues, around 342.4 million women and girls will be surviving on less than 2.15 USD a day by 2030.

Gender inequalities in various spheres of life, in addition to the existing gender gap in power and leadership, are exacerbating these hardships and pushing even more women into extreme poverty across the globe. These disparities are not only limiting the socio-economic prospects of women and girls but also thwarting progress in each and every dimension of sustainable development. 

In Africa, gender-based discrimination permeates every aspect of life, subverting the efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda and undermining its transformative potential. In the sub-Saharan region of our continent, 127 women aged 25-34 live in extreme poverty for every 100 men; more than half of the female population is food insecure; and adolescent girls are more likely than their male counterparts to be out of school. 

These realities make the quest for inclusive policies and reforms in Africa and across the globe an urgent necessity in order to tackle extreme poverty and the underlying gender inequalities. The 68th annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68) currently taking place at the UN Headquarters in New York is a unique opportunity to adopt a holistic approach to poverty reduction and agree on measures to remove the gender barriers that perpetuate poverty and the suffering of women and girls.

Amujae Leader Anne Waiguru attended the side event entitled ‘Empowering Women to Empower Communities: Local Economies of Equality and Care’ on Local and Regional Governments’ Day. She touched upon the G7 strategy with the goal of ensuring more women governors are elected and re-elected to help close the political gender gap; crucial for development and policymaking.

She argued that “some of the ways counties are doing this is through the establishment of women’s funds, empowerment programs, and vocational training programs to enhance skills in key sectors women participate in.”

A Kenyan side event on Leveraging on Health Investments for Poverty Alleviation and Improved Maternal Outcomes also took place, which Ms. Waiguru attended and Amujae Leader Gladys Wanga delivered the keynote address.

Tackling gender gaps in economic participation and in development spheres such as education and healthcare is key to achieving progress toward social and economic transformation. In the discussions at CSW68, it is therefore crucial to bring into focus the interconnection between poverty and the absence of inclusive development. Moreover, it is crucial that local, regional, and global policies are devised to advance women’s leadership in decision-making roles and to unlock their potential as drivers of inclusive sustainable development.

Investing in such measures would yield significant returns in helping to lift millions of women and girls out of poverty, boost economic growth, and enhance the wellbeing of the whole of society. And in a year when half of the world’s population will head to the polls, it is all the more urgent that we put gender equality and women’s public leadership at the top of the global agenda. The opportunity offered by CSW68 to “unite in the fight for gender equality” and dismantle structural barriers to achieve parity in leadership, as emphasized by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, must not be missed.

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