Published on Women’s Media Center

By Nicolette Naylor and Cecile Richards

As women, girls, and activists recently gathered virtually and in person for the UN Women’s Generation Equality Forum in Paris to put forth recommendations and financial commitments toward achieving gender equality, we were reminded of the original World Conference in Beijing 26 years ago where women from all over the world convened and declared that, in the words of then First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, “Women’s rights are human rights.” This moment was critical for charting a path toward greater gender equality. And while women and girls around the world have come a long way since Beijing, we also know that we still have a very long way to go, particularly for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) women, trans and gender-nonconforming women, and women with disabilities.

Data released over the past two years reveals alarming statistics. Some 640 million women have experienced physical and sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner. Approximately 190 million women who wanted to avoid pregnancy were not able to use any contraceptive method. About 35 million women in low- and middle-income countries have abortions in unsafe conditions each year. Meanwhile, women continue to do three times the amount of unpaid care work compared to men. The gender gap in labor force participation has not shifted in 30 years. And World Economic Forum data indicates that at this rate it will take us over a century — 136.6 years to be exact — before women achieve pay equity or leadership equity with men.

While these statistics are already grim, COVID-19 has exacerbated global inequality further. It is estimated that 47 million women will fall into extreme poverty due to COVID. And it is despicable that lawmakers around the world have capitalized on lockdowns to weaken women’s rights — especially since the crisis proved devastating to women’s role in the economy, to their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), and to gender-based violence (GBV) rates. In the U.S., at least 11 states have sought to limit access to abortion during the pandemic, while Turkey announced its withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention (formally known as the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence), with others, such as Poland and Hungary, threatening to follow suit. In some countries, for example in Mexico, domestic violence alone has increased by as much as 53% as a result of lockdowns.

The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

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