Empowering Women: What’s Stopping Us, Where Do We Go From Here?


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Radhe Patel is a 2014 UNA-USA Social Good Summit Blogger Fellow. View this post on her blog. 

The first day of the UN Foundation Social Good Summit was kicked off by an incredible panel of women leaders: Helen Clark (Administrator, UNDP and former Prime Minister of New Zealand), Graca Machel (Children’s Rights Advocate, MDG working group), Juju Chang (Co-Anchor, NBC Nightline), and Kathy Calvin (President and CEO, UN Foundation).


The group discussed, among other things, post-2015 challenges being faced in closing the gender divide internationally.  Clark identified the need to work on getting better local level data. She explained that globally, we’ve made strides in identifying Africa and East Asia as high priority regions for the work, but the problem is “all we have is national numbers on things like girls in school and maternal mortality. This hides deep injustices,” she explained, because conditions could be very different province by province. Though there has been lots of progress in raising average statistics in these regions, the next step in her eyes is to collaborate to map every country and district.


Calvin agreed, and added that access to technology was a specific metric there was not much data on. This is a key issue as more apps, even for basic phones, are being developed that target women in developing regions- for everything from FAQs for pregnant mothers to tools checking the validity of medications for girls. The problem is, many of mobile phones are owned by men in these regions, and with a technology divide comes an information divide- leading to an opportunity divide and ultimately a continued power divide.


Machel remarked that one way to begin addressing the access to technology issue and getting men to share these tools with wives and daughters was to continue working on grassroots level campaigns and education around the perception of women in some communities as inferior. To Machel, it all “comes down to understanding the value of a girl as the same as that of a boy,” constructs she urged us to consider in terms of arbitrary norms, rather than a cultural truth.


As one of the first panels, this conversation gave attendees a lot to think about in terms of the ‘new age’ problems we are facing in empowering women and girls. They set the stage for other activists to respond with ideas to confront these barriers, and innovation for how to sustain our level of engagement in these movements world-wide.

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