Advancing the full participation of girls and women is not only a matter of human rights; it is also a strategic global imperative.
At this year’s 12th and final Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, the Clinton Foundation’s No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project, Vital Voices Global Partnership, and WEConnect International launched a new coalition made up of 30 core partners from across the public and private sectors. Together, we announced a cluster of nearly 25 new commitments that addresses significant gender gaps across three critical areas: advancing women’s economic participation, addressing violence against girls and women, and promoting women’s leadership.
After having worked together for more than a year, I spoke with several of our key partners about this coalition to reflect on the importance of collaboration in ensuring girls and women everywhere have equal rights and opportunities.
Why the urgency to ensure gender equality?
Data from the No Ceilings’ Full Participation Report show that there has never been a better time to be born female. Today, girls and women have a much greater chance to live healthy and secure lives, and their fundamental human rights are now protected by law in many countries throughout the world. Yet, despite progress in the areas of health, education, and legal rights, the pace of change has been far too slow – especially in the areas of promoting women’s economic participation, addressing violence against girls and women, and advancing women’s leadership, from communities to C-suites.
Further, “the gains that have been made have not been shared by all. Geography, income, age, race, gender identity, and other factors, remain powerful determinants for girls’ and women’s chances at equal rights and opportunities,” said Chelsea Clinton, who announced this group of commitments on-stage during a CGI plenary session titled, Girl, Uninterrupted: Increasing Opportunity During Adolescence.
Despite significant progress, we are not there yet.
One year ago, the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of 17 global goals to promote international development and inclusive economic prosperity by 2030 – not only in the developing world, but in every country and community. Gender equality is a central tenet of the agenda; it is highlighted as both a stand-alone goal (SDG 5) and integrated throughout the agreement, which is one of the most progressive, mainstream, and universal agreements in history.
“The global community, including this multi-sector coalition, has organized to launch a new era of inclusive international development guided by the SDGs. The success of women and girls in all aspects of their lives is central to sustainable development and prosperity for all,” said Elizabeth A. Vazquez, CEO and Co-Founder, WEConnect International.
But we know that an agreement without action will not result in change. As Renée Joslyn, Director of Girls and Women Integration at the Clinton Global Initiative noted, “It is not just the work of the United Nations or individual government to take action. We need the resources, capacity, and collective will – across the public and private sectors – to achieve real change. By advancing Commitments to Action from the private sector, foundations, multilateral institutions, and leading non-profit organizations, we can see real transformative change on the ground – not just for girls and women, but for their families, communities, and countries.”
The time is now.
“Never before has addressing gender inequality been seen as an imperative when tackling the challenges of global development. We are proud to be part of this dynamic coalition of partners working to achieve breakthrough change in the advancement of women and girls. It is a once in a generation opportunity that we believe will drive global progress for all,” said Alyse Nelson, President & CEO, Vital Voices Global Partnership.
How did such a diverse group manage to pull off an initiative this big? Why now?
To move from evidence to action, No Ceilings, Vital Voices Global Partnership, and WEConnect International gathered key corporate, foundation, NGO, and UN entities currently invested in the rights and opportunities of girls and women. Over a year ago, at the 2015 CGI Annual Meeting, we began to establish a core group of partners from across sectors to collectively develop a constellation of meaningful Commitments to Action – clearly articulating targeted outcomes and impact of our collective efforts, and complementing the important work of the United Nations and country governments.
"The SDGs are a call to action, with unprecedented potential to empower women and girls; and in doing so tackle the monumental challenges we face across the globe,” said Aldijana Sisic, Chief of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women. “From the perspective of the UN Trust Fund, the opportunity to come together with No Ceilings, private sector partners, and non-profits provided a critical platform to highlight the resources that still need to be committed to make good on the promise of the SDGs, particularly for women and girls.”
Robert Bank, President and CEO of American Jewish World Service (AJWS) also spoke about the power of partnership. Through this coalition, AJWS has committed $12 million to support 50 local organizations in India to address the root causes of child, early, and forced marriages for girls. “We are deeply gratified to join with our friends and colleagues at the CGI in this coalition work to build the kind of world we want to live in – one in which every girl and woman has the right to make decisions for herself and about her life. We are rallying together to advance SDG 5 to address violence against girls and women and to ensure that girls are never forced to marry. We believe that each woman should decide if and when she wishes to marry and to whom. When women benefit from the full promise of gender equality, they will make the right decisions for themselves and the world community will only benefit.”
What are the implications of this set of commitments? What is the impact?
The impact of this work is unique in its breath, depth, and diverse range of programs offered.
The Girls, Women & the Global Goals coalition partners have collectively pledged over $70 million to advance the full participation of women and girls. This work will directly impact nearly 900,000 individuals in over 60 countries across 6 continents, including here in the United States, to advance women’s economic opportunity, address the global scourge of gender-based violence, and promote women’s voices and leadership. Partners will accomplish this work through programmatic interventions, support to grassroots organizations, advocacy for policy change, and by contributing to the evidence base through robust research.
Coalition partners are working together in this effort. “We are thrilled to be supporting the efforts of our partners at Vital Voices and Global Fund for Women in their work to improve the lives of women around the world,” said Joe Gebbia, co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Airbnb, “and we’re committed to do our part in supporting female entrepreneurs and the economic equality of women.” In another effort to further women’s economic opportunity, a collective of seven companies led by WEConnect International, including EY, Freeport-McMoRan, IBM, Ingersoll Rand, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, and Walmart have collectively pledged to spend more than $15 billion with women-owned businesses globally over five years.
We are proud to announce that these programs will focus on advancing opportunity for women at all socioeconomic levels around the world, from those living in poverty, to women seeking leadership positions in the United States, to refugee or displaced girls and women.
Carolyn Tastad, Group President, North America, Procter & Gamble, noted: “No Ceilings data show us gender equality won’t only change the lives of girls and women – it will change the world.”
As we look to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we must all make a serious commitment to invest in girls and women. We believe that accomplishing the gender-related goals and targets of the SDGs will be the tipping point; only then will we see progress across all the SDG goals and ensure no ceilings for all.
Coalition partners include: Airbnb, American Jewish World Service, Avon, CARE, Catalyst, Cherie Blair Foundation, Dermalogica, EY, East-West Center, Foundation Center, Freeport-McMoRan, Global Fund for Women, IBM, International Center for Research on Women, Ingersoll Rand, McLarty Global Fellows, NEST, No Ceilings an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, Procter & Gamble, Pfizer, Sodexo, Together for Girls, UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, Unilever, Upaya Social Ventures, Vital Voices Global Partnership, WAKE International, Walmart, WEConnect International, Women Deliver, Women for Women International, and Women’s Funding Network. Find more information on the commitments here.
To learn more and access resources on the Sustainable Development Goals and gender, please visit the Clinton Foundation’s Impact Library here.