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Women: The missing ingredient

Thursday, 25 April 2013 11:00 GMT

A woman sells toys at a market in the Liberian capital Monrovia May 4, 2010. REUTERS/Tim Cocks

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

If we talk about empowering women with tools, we must also empower them with powerful information and meaningful involvement in decision-making

Do we want to grow global economies and enhance democratic practices?  What is the missing ingredient? Women. Not just our bodies, but also our heads, our minds, our voices and our choices.

  • World population of seven billion and rising? The answer lies in women choosing whether and when to have babies - safely - and being supported in those choices.
  • Prosperity of nations? The answer lies in investments in human capital and women, who are half of the humanity. Investing in women yields exponential returns and is good for families, communities and countries.
  • In both of these areas, the key actors are - or should be - women and the key factors are women’s rights, women’s choice, and support to and investment in women to accelerate these.
  • In both these areas, women have been failed repeatedly and relentlessly.

Now is our chance to change the world, to shift the earth on its axis and to put women, women’s rights, choices - and resources - front and center of global development.  It is about committing to making the world a safer place for women and children - and for all people.

It's not difficult. We just need to listen to women.

If we talk about empowering women with tools, we must also empower women with powerful information, meaningful involvement in the decision-making that affects women’s lives, with agency and money.


This is the time to take a women’s rights and holistic approach to ensure that women, women’s organizations and networks receive funding, independently from service providing organizations, and are seen as lead agencies for advocacy, using human rights indicators.

At the Global Fund For Women, it has always been clear to us that advancing women's rights, increasing their access to education, health and specifically reproductive health and rights, political participation, and economic autonomy, enables women to be a powerful force for change and is the most effective way to realize a just and equitable future.

Genuine commitment to global economic growth and democracy requires a rights’ based approach as the fundamental building block for achieving gender equality, which indeed is the base.

This includes the rights to protection from violence and harm, the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress, rights to education and information, food, shelter, jobs, self-determination and on.

For women, self-determination includes when or whether to have children and also the right to safe abortion, if they choose it. A human rights approach includes all women  – all rights - without exception.

As the one of the largest public supported foundations solely dedicated to advancing women’s human rights, we have boldly stood with marginalized populations such as indigenous women, LGBT, domestic workers, sex workers, refugees, displaced women and women with disabilities. We do so because this is justice, not just us.


Moreover, a rights based framework catalyzes genuine engagement of all kinds of stakeholders and creates sustainable solutions. It ensures economic inclusion because economies that leave out 51-percent of their participants will not thrive.

Global Fund for Women has invested over US$100 million to more than 4200 women’s groups and organizations in 174 countries. In fact, we are a venture fund of sorts – making investments in some of the most creative and entrepreneurial women’s rights organizations and activists around the globe who measure their impact in increased human capital.

These entrepreneurs and organizations convert the $8.5 million we award in grants each year to hotlines, legal counsel and family planning advocacy. Data shows that one-and-a-half billion women and girls have benefited from laws and policies that our grantees helped to pass and implement. We have been a lifeline to women and girls in conflict zones—monitoring treaties, healing, and reconciliation. We shall continue value best practices.

We have been a game-changer, a bridge builder, and a force for constantly widening the circle of the movement for women’s rights. We have pushed the philanthropic envelope to put women’s and girls’ human rights at the top of the agenda for donors and governments—bringing more money, attention and pressure on leaders to take meaningful actions to create just laws and implement those already on the books.

The end is far from realisation. That is why going forward we raise the bar to address current issues that are front and center now. Like connecting women and technology. Mobile phones, computers, social media are essential for the social change we seek, especially for women and girls in communities that limit their life options. We call it digital justice; and it touches every aspect of our lives and work: advocacy, education, politics, and health.

And that is why we are hopeful about the future.  We have hope in the mutual trust and relationships with women and men alike because that is the essence a true democratic society. Now is the time to raise the bar and apply a gender equality strategy across disciplines.