Achieving Women’s Rights Through Public Debate and Action

Women deserve to live in worlds where they can make their own choices and pursue their dreams, earn and manage their own money, and participate fully in political life. But to truly achieve equality for women, there is more than just a need for laws and programs. There is a need to change the attitudes and beliefs that underlie gender discrimination and human rights violations. This is why medica mondiale is committed to supporting advocacy that drives public discourse and dismantles the power structures that fuel inequality.

The good news is that across most of the world, people are optimistic about the progress they have seen in recent years. On average, 75% of those surveyed think it is likely that women in their country will eventually have the same rights as men.

This reflects improvements in the areas of maternal mortality, access to education, and labor market participation, among others. The Middle East and North Africa saw the most significant improvements due to reforms such as: enabling equal pay for work of equal value; making it illegal to use religious reasons to discriminate against women; and passing legislation that protects domestic violence victims and prohibits spousal abuse.

But despite these gains, people are also pessimistic about the pace of progress. Overall, 25% of people say there has been no progress in the past decade, while a third say things have gotten worse. This is true for both women and men, and it is particularly acute among those with less education.

The vast majority of Americans, from all demographic and partisan groups, believe that women should have the same rights as men. In fact, 9-in-10 say it is very important or somewhat important that women have these same rights in the U.S.

Those who say women’s rights have not advanced enough highlight factors such as different societal expectations, lack of women in positions of leadership, and sexual harassment and assault. However, partisan differences are more pronounced on specific issues: Those with more education are more likely than those with less to point to women’s suffrage as the single most important milestone in advancing women’s rights, while a greater share of Democrats say it is very or somewhat important that women have equal legal rights.

Gender equality is more than just a moral imperative; it is a necessity for global development. To fully realize the economic potential of half the world’s population, countries need to ensure women are able to exercise their freedom to choose how many children they want, when they want, where and from whom; that they can find safe and decent jobs; and that they can live without fear of violence, oppression or discrimination. These goals can be achieved by ensuring that women’s rights are firmly anchored in international law; addressing the elevated risks of violence against women human rights defenders, activists and politicians; empowering women to become leaders in their communities; and by tackling barriers to equal opportunities for education and healthcare.