Gender equality – Still a long way to go

9 March 2015 – Twenty years since the world signed on to the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action – a blueprint for gender equality – women of the world are still subject to sexual violence and lag behind men in an array of critical aspects of life, like health, education, wages, property ownership and political participation. Yet some gains have made, albeit slow and uneven, the UN says.

A young woman from a fishing community in West Bengal, India
When the leaders of 189 countries gathered in Beijing at the landmark 1995 International Conference on Women, they took up the challenge to create a world where women are equal. Two decades later, women still face obstacles and injustice. Although some countries have removed discriminatory laws, and some gains have been made towards women’s advancement, progress has been slow and uneven and no country has achieved gender parity, says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a new report. UN Women/Anindit Roy- Chowdhury
Read more: UN kicks off International Women’s Day celebrations with appeal for gender equality

Women in Woukpokpoe village, Benin, have access to clean water thanks to a community development project
More than two billion people worldwide have gained access to clean drinking water since 1990, says the UN, but women still have to spend 16 million hours per day collecting water in 25 sub-Saharan countries, as opposed to men who spend 6 million hours per day doing the same. World Bank/Arne Hoel
Read more: Maternal death rates fall but chronic diseases increase pregnancy risk – UN agency

Young girls at school in Afghanistan
Educating women and girls is a driving force against poverty worldwide. Since the 1990s, progress has been made in all developing regions in achieving gender parity in primary school education, the UN reports. The bad news is that more than half of the world’s 58 million out-of-school children are girls, a large number of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. World Bank/Sofie Tesson /Taimani Films
Read more: UN rights report points to ‘increasing regularity’ of attacks on girls seeking education

A group of girls take time out for a photo at a high school in Colombia
Progress was made in higher education, too, with Latin America and the Caribbean taking the lead on the number of girls enrolled at the secondary level – 107 girls for every 100 boys – and at the tertiary level – 128 women for every 100 men, according to the UN. By contrast, in sub-Saharan Africa, only 64 women are enrolled for every 100 men at the tertiary level. World Bank/Charlotte Kesl
Read more: ‘Wake-up call’ data shows 63 million adolescents out of school – joint UN agency report

Working alongside her male team member, a woman employee checks the quality of work at a dam under construction in Sri Lanka
Women have been gaining ground in the workforce, too, but not enough, says the UN. Although the number of women in paid employment has risen from 40 per cent in the 1990s to more than 50 per cent today, women earn from 10 to 30 per cent less than men for performing the same work. World Bank/Lakshman Nadaraja
Read more: Despite progress, UN labour agency says women’s workplace equality may take ‘decades’

Activists picket outside Nepal’s Constituent Assembly demanding justice for survivors of sexual violence (2014)
Many countries have adopted policies to advance gender equality, remove discrimination and address gender violence. But in war and in peace, too many women and girls are targets of sexual violence that traumatizes individuals, fractures communities and holds back development, the UN says. IRIN/Mallika Aryal
Read more: Eradicating sexual violence in Colombia requires investment in communities – UN envoy

Security Council holds open debate on women and peace and security (2014)
Through its pioneering resolution 1325 (2000), the UN Security Council recognized that war impacts women differently than men and stressed the need to increase women’s participation in peace talks. Yet, from 1992 to 2011, only nine per cent of negotiators at the peace table were women, according to the UN. UN Women/Ryan Brown
Read more: UN reaffirms importance of women’s empowerment for global peace, security

Men and women parliamentarians in Tajikistan (file)
Women’s participation in political life is growing. In the last twenty years, the number of women members of parliament have nearly doubled, but that only brings the total of women parliamentarians to 22 per cent overall, the UN says. In fact, there are still five countries where not a single woman is represented in parliament. And there are only about 20 heads of State and Government who are women. World Bank/Gennadiy Ratushenko
Read more: FEATURE: In report to UN, record number of women winning seats in Parliaments

Delegates gather in New York to renew pledges towards achieving women’s empowerment
“The world will never realise 100 per cent of its goals if 50 per cent of its people cannot realise their full potential,” warned Secretary-General Ban as he addressed representatives of Governments, civil society and UN bodies gathered in New York for the 2015 session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (above). Over the Commission’s two-week session, delegates will assess gaps and renew commitments with the goal of achieving a world of gender equality by the year 2030. UN Photo/Loey Felipe
Read more: Adopting political declaration, UN urges world to ‘step it up’ to ensure gender equality by 2030

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Video: UN Women captures the journey of women’s rights from 1911-2015