Women’s Equality When?

Early this ‘Women’s History’ month,  I collected bits of news and opinion, most from Devex News, that kinda slapped me, for a minute, out of my inveterate optimism.  To wit:

  • U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said this week that global progress on women’s rights is “vanishing before our eyes” and that gender equality will take another three centuries to achieve. “Gender equality is growing more distant,” he warned.
  • This week, after a winter break, Afghanistan reopened its universities — without women.
  • Iran is planning to execute those who protested the killing of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, battered to death by the morality police for wearing her headscarf the wrong way.
  • And in the United States, women’s self-determination to control their bodies has turned back decades.
  • A recent World Bank report found that young women entering the labor force right now will likely retire before realizing the same rights as men in many countries and that the pace of reforms on women’s rights has dropped to a 20-year low.
  • Although workplace opportunities have undoubtedly improved since World War II, a new study found that in the development world, women have held just 12% of the top jobs at 33 of the biggest multilateral institutions. Of 382 leaders since 1945, only 47 were women — and the World Bank and United Nations have never had a woman at the top.
  • Women account for nearly 70% of the global health workforce, yet men still dominate positions of power.
  • And this about data collection:
    “So much of the research that our projects and our programs are built upon is informed by male respondents speaking on behalf of humanity,” said Mara Bolis, a gender justice advocate. She believes the ‘default to male’ approach undermines global development outcomes and hurts women.
    Without gender-disaggregated data, which distinguishes between men and women, women and girls are effectively invisible.  Collecting information about women’s lived experience from women is how governments and service organizations understand and meet their needs.

Building data collection capacity is a major focus of WCI’s expanding network of Women’s Centers.

In terms of the other dismal bullet point inequalities, we have to double down on investment in our Centers. That’s where thousands of women can step into their unique power. That’s were grassroots power ripples into the gender equality we need for humankind to survive. Yeah, it’s that serious.