Back in 2002 I was elated to see that the world was organizing in a way that we had not ever seen in the history of the UN http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/. Led by the UN the attending nations agreed to set goals that would change the world – ending poverty, HIV/AIDs, child mortality, clean water and sanitation, access to education – 8 in total. They were “bold and practical” proposals – set to be completed by 2015.
We are now just short of two years into the midst of 2015 and we have yet to see a significant change in the core actions of governments, businesses and individuals to make a concerted and sustainable difference. Admittedly, there has been a lot of talk, a lot of discussion, a lot of proposals and a lot of never ending “negotiations”. Some, have actually developed sustainable energy ideas, HIV/AIDS research has developed long-term drug “cocktails” that sustain and enhance those who can afford them, we have thousands of nonprofits working on clean water ideas around the world, building schools, libraries, clinics, roads and infrastructure that can help people find access to markets.
What we have not done is concentrate on 51 percent of the world’s population – the ones who actually manage poverty on a daily basis. I am not talking about those living on $1.25 a day – but those who live on $10.00 a day. I am talking about those women who actually have the ability, education, desire and some access to funds to grow businesses and jobs. 51 percent of the population is still discounted as viable economic contributors. 51 percent!
I have been listening to rhetoric for over 30 years on women’s economic empowerment. Why has it taken over 30 years to make a difference, much less understand the implications? It wasn’t about burning the bras http://womenshistory.about.com/od/mythsofwomenshistory/a/bra_burning.htm. It wasn’t about getting the vote. It wasn’t about getting a job. What it should have been more about was Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lilly Tomlin. It should be more about 9:00 – 5:00 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/9_to_5_(film) where women actually took action. What is was, and still is about, is that we have been complacent and not taking thoughtful action to make a difference. We continue to buy products from companies that do not support women’s economic growth, we continue to watch television programming that trivialize women’s abilities, we continue to vote into political positions men who do not have any women’s economic empowerment agenda. 51 percent of the world’s population is still not taking leadership roles, not because “they” won’t let us, because “we” don’t take action. Seriously, women currently purchase almost 90% of a family’s daily needs – let’s get a little smarter!
The UN High Level panel just completed a report that will kick-start a two year “discussion and negotiation” on what the development agenda after 2015 should be. The co-chairs, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and British Prime Minister David Cameron, called it a “bold and practical” proposal with 12 goals and 54 targets. “Our vision and our responsibility are to end extreme poverty in all its forms in the context of sustainable development and to have in place the building blocks of sustained prosperity for all,” the panel said. The recommended goals include ensuring food security, sustainable energy and sustainable natural resources management; creating jobs and promoting economic growth and good governance; achieving gender equality and ensuring stable and peaceful societies. Targets include promoting free speech and the rule of law, ending child marriage, protecting property rights, encouraging entrepreneurship and ensuring that every child has at least a primary school education. They have well intentioned recommendations – but no actions. Again – a lot of rhetoric, albeit very important, but too high level to actually build commitment on. And, who will fund the concepts?
Mexico’s former foreign relations secretary Patricia Espinoza, a panel member, said the vision for 2030 won’t be achieved “if the world continues to do business like we have been doing for the last decades.” It is critical that we embrace those cautions and recognize them as similar to the same consideration that Hillary Clinton stated in 2012 at the Women’s Empowerment summit – “we have to stop tinkering around the edges”. It is time ladies and gentlemen, madams and sirs – to get it together and get the job done. We do not have another three decades to waste.
Yes, the U.S. panelist for the High Commission panel, John Podesta, who served as President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, did mention in a news conference that the 2000 MDGs failed to promote peace and security – what, it needs promoting? We have the statistical evidence that when women are economically empowered that they provide for the health and well- being of their children, domestic violence is reduced and when women have jobs, there is a more secure social, political and economic future in regions. Hello – anyone out there dispute this? Currently more than 40 percent of the economically disadvantaged live in conflict affected regions – and we still have a significant number of women who manage poverty on a daily basis without going into major conflict.
I suggest that each of us – all of us – consider what choices we are going to make to rectify the many decades of poverty and women’s lack of economic empowerment, and what are we willing to do about it? I suggest that collectively, all of us consider ways that we can make an impact – support organizations that actually accomplish something with women, not for women. Support television programs and magazines that highlight women in leadership roles and do not denigrate them. I suggest that by taking action like Lilly Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton did in 9-5 that we might find our way out of this decades long debacle of women continuing to manage poverty – rather than managing their families and their regional health, education and welfare.
I do not suggest tying men up and hanging them from the ceiling as Jane Fonda and her merry women did, however I do suggest that by taking action today rather than waiting for others to make decisions, will drive us towards women’s pay equity, economic empowerment and a more stable and secure future for us all.