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No longer a secret: More women leaders will drive a more equal society

by Musimbi Kanyoro/Global Fund for Women | Global Fund for Women
Thursday, 5 March 2015 20:20 GMT

Female fighters of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) stand near the border between Syria and Iraq, close to the Iraqi town of Snoun December 22, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

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

It's time that the power and potential of women’s leadership moved from the background to the fore – on International Women’s Day and every day

Every year, International Women’s Day marks a single day where the world celebrates women and girls, and reflects on the state of women’s human rights – a single day when we have the world’s attention to talk about the issues and movements that we work on all 365 days every year. It is a chance to celebrate the courageous women change makers working in their communities for a better tomorrow, and a chance to consider what challenges are ahead for women and girls.

This International Women’s Day, I want to let the world in on a secret: that women and girl leaders are the key to a better future. International Women’s Day is an opportunity for all of us to recognize the fearless and resilient women leaders who are unapologetic in their commitment to defending women’s human rights in their villages, cities, countries, and around the world – women who are advocating for justice and equal rights for men and women, and demanding women’s participation in decision making at every level of society.  

Women like Mamta Chand, a young activist and leader with the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement – a Global Fund for Women grantee partner focused on developing women’s leadership – who educates women about their rights, encourages them to register to vote in order to make their voices heard, and empowers women to use their votes to demand women’s rights. Mamta energized women to participate in Fiji’s first democratic parliamentary elections in more than eight years and as a result of the elections one in seven Fijian Members of Parliament are now women.

Every day, women activists like Mamta work passionately and effectively to move the needle on the most pressing issues facing women and girls around the world – gender-based violence, economic and political empowerment, and sexual and reproductive health and rights – and they shed light on the daily inequalities that women in their communities want to address, like the gender gap in access to and control of technology. Over the years, we have seen many changes. For instance, 25 countries have passed laws criminalizing gender-based violence that will give new protection to 1.05 billion women and girls.

This is great progress, but it is still a drop in the ocean.

In my role as President and CEO of Global Fund for Women, every day is International Women’s Day. I am at the heart of a global network of innovative, creative women leaders working for social justice – together they are truly a secret worth sharing, a source of talent and power with the potential to make a transformative difference to our world. We must see them, hear them, and fund them.

2015 provides a number of key opportunities to demonstrate seriousness about obstacles to gender equality and the value of women’s leadership.  The political declaration for the United Nations Beijing+ 20 year review – which marks 20 years since the participants at Beijing’s World Conference on Women in 1995 demanded gender equality – must be strong and action-oriented with an unequivocal commitment to implementation with resources. 

The Post-2015 Development Agenda must be grounded in a human rights framework that includes a strong gender equality goal that recognizes and accelerates transformative women’s leadership and that sees the gender dimensions of every goal as critical to their fulfillment. 

Without greater investment in women, including women’s leadership in civil society, women-led organizations and movements, and equal education and resources for women and girls in STEM and other fields, our celebrations for future International Women’s Days will be limited.  Women around the world are eager to engage even more in a global society that demonstrates that it values women and our contributions to the future.

It is time that the power and potential of women’s leadership moved from the background to the fore – on International Women’s Day and every day. It is time to make our leadership count!

Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro is the President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women