“Inequality is not inevitable”: Challenging gender discrimination through the G7
Reflections after the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council meeting in early May.
May 20, 2019 by Sinead Andersen, Global Partnership for Education Secretariat|
The members of the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council pose for a group photo after their meeting in Paris on May 8 and 9
CREDIT: GPE/Sinead Andersen

We know that women and girls, across the globe, are being systematically denied their most basic rights. And since we know better, we should do better. This is the sentiment held by the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council that convened in Paris for the second time on May 8 and 9. The Global Partnership for Education CEO Alice Albright was invited earlier this year to sit on the Council and reflects:

“The barriers to gender equality are many, the solutions are complex, but the time for action is undoubtedly now. We are armed with the knowledge and tools for change and must challenge perceptions that inequality is inevitable; for it is only as permissible as we allow it to be”.
Alice Albright during the meeting of the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council
Alice Albright during the meeting of the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council
CREDIT: GPE/Sinead Andersen

Girls and women still face too many obstacles

Despite global momentum and progress, women and girls are still the subject of rhetoric, rather than revolutionary change. Tangible impact in the day-to-day experience of women and girls is sorely lacking and undermined by social, political and structural issues that prevent sustainable change. That is why the statistics continue to raise the alarm:

  • Education is the foundation for gender empowerment and equality, yet one in every five children, adolescents and youth are out of school - 130 million of which are girls.
  • Close to 15 million girls under the age of 18 are married each year, most often sacrificing their schooling.
  • Maternal mortality is still one of the leading causes of death for 15-19 year-olds.
  • One in three women has been, or will become, a victim of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

Reviewing the legal framework for gender equality

It is within this context that our CEO spent two days with the Council, an amazing group of bold and brave women and men that shone a light on the possibility of a different future and gave cause for optimism. “While there were moments I felt like we would never break through the pervasiveness of gender inequality, the tenacity of the people on this group gives me hope to believe otherwise”, Alice reflected.

The Council are supporting the creation of a ‘package of gender progressive laws’ that lay the foundations for gender inclusive and equitable societies, to form part of wider initiatives to tackle gender injustices.

Over the course of the two days the Council discussed the need for G7, and all other countries, to review their legal frameworks, repeal discriminatory laws and fully finance and implement progressive legal frameworks that instil equity and inclusion. Strong accountability and governance mechanisms, including support for civil society, will be the key to success and must be measured and reported on transparently.

Beyond laws, a focus on implementation

GPE is pushing strongly for the recognition that laws alone won’t be sufficient to achieve transformative change, highlighting that laws are an imperfect litmus test of progress towards equality.

In high-level meetings with other Council members, G7 Gender Ministers and the Women7, GPE emphasized that even with the best laws on paper, their implementation lags behind all over the world. This implementation is also contingent upon a conducive environment and addressing the root causes of inequality - such as negative norms, attitudes and behaviors. 

Alongside Katja Iversen, CEO of Women Deliver, Alice also noted the centrality of education and health to the empowerment, well-being and overall prosperity of women, girls and their societies a whole.

Together, for example, we are pushing for world leaders to adopt laws, policies and programs that lead to universal access to education and health, and to change systems to make education and health responsive to the needs of all genders.

What's next?

On July 5, 2019, Alice will represent the Council at the joint Development and Education G7 Ministers meeting – an exciting opportunity to advance support for gender to be at the center of education, for a scale-up of education support to Sahel Countries and for strong political commitment on the need for trained teachers.

In their closing statement, the Council said: 

“This is not a women’s issue, it is everybody’s issue. We urge G7 leaders to be as brave as women and girls are every day.”

We will carry this message with us right up to the G7 leaders’ Summit in August, where we will fight for every child to have a trained teacher and for every girl to realize her full potential through education. 

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I stand with you firmly and believe it is high time that those empty promises be wiped off the slate and girls be allowed to experience freedom and opportunity - unfettered, unconditional. Aurobindo Mukerji

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