Promoting Women’s Rights is More Than a Women’s Issue – It is a Human Rights Issue

When people have a voice in their community, they have the opportunity to take action against injustices and make changes. Women, and men too, have the right to be heard and to use their power to change things for the better. That’s why it is so important to promote women rights – from equal pay to property ownership rights, freedom from violence, access to education and healthcare, and the ability to participate in politics and peacemaking processes. This is more than a women’s issue, it is a human rights issue.

When women are not fully equal with men, everyone suffers. For instance, economies grow when women are economically empowered; the quality of health care increases when women have access to affordable services; communities thrive when women are involved in decision-making; and societies benefit when women’s voices are heard in public life. Yet, despite significant progress over the past half century, there remains much to be done to empower women and realise their full potential.

Across the world, 2.4 billion women do not have access to jobs that allow them to support their families or meet their basic needs, and 178 countries still maintain legal barriers that prevent women from full economic participation. Women and girls are also more likely to be victimised, with one in three reporting having experienced sexual assault or a violent incident at some point in their lives. In addition, women’s lives are often disrupted by conflict and disaster, where they are more at risk of poverty, hunger, malnutrition and inadequate shelter.

This inequality is the result of longstanding gender-based discrimination and societal structures that are incompatible with democratic values and principles of equality, including social hierarchy, patriarchal ways of thinking, and norms of masculinity and femininity. At medica mondiale, we focus on identifying these power structures and working with local partners to dismantle them. This is the best way to ensure women’s rights are fully recognised, respected and upheld – in order to build a more equitable, sustainable future for all.

As we mark the centenary of the 19th Amendment, a majority of Americans (56%) say the country hasn’t gone far enough to give women equal rights with men. This is a marked increase from 2017, when fewer than half (47%) felt this way. More Democrats than Republicans and independents agree that the country should go further to advance women’s rights.

Across all 34 countries surveyed, majorities say it is very or somewhat important that women have equal rights with men in their country. Those who feel this way are more likely to name not having enough women in positions of power, sexual harassment, different societal expectations and limited job opportunities as key barriers. In contrast, a smaller share name sexism and family obligations as obstacles. The new Sustainable Development Goals hold real promise for embedding advances in women’s rights. But for those gains to be made, there must be strong commitments and clear accountability.