Women’s Rights and Gender Equality

Women rights refer to the legal and economic protections that enable women to make their own choices. These choices are important for the well-being of women and their families. They improve children’s opportunities for healthy development, help women to contribute to the economy and reduce poverty, and provide the basis for addressing many other issues, including racial discrimination, business and economic growth, and climate change.

Women around the world still face significant challenges in achieving their rights. They earn on average 20 percent less than men globally, and are more likely to be out of the workforce or unemployed, limiting their ability to build good lives for themselves and their families. The gap has been narrowing over the years, but progress is uneven and slow. Only a record 143 countries have guaranteed equality between women and men in their constitutions, and the world is falling behind on meeting the targets set by the United Nations for reducing inequality.

The fight to guarantee women’s rights must continue, and it is essential to address all aspects of inequality. A global approach to empowering women and girls will improve education, health, and access to jobs, and help reduce violence against women, preventable maternal deaths, and the unmet need for contraception.

Across the globe, there are still millions of women who are not safe from domestic and sexual violence. These crimes, which include rape and other forms of physical assault, child abuse, and so-called “honour killings,” are often committed by men who are in control of the home or family. Increasing women’s rights will help them to break these chains of power and to live life on their own terms.

Gender equality is the only way to achieve global peace and prosperity, but it must be accompanied by strong human rights enforcement. The promotion of gender equality is a key element of the Sustainable Development Goals, and should go hand in hand with efforts to achieve high levels of economic freedom.

When people who say it is important to give women equal rights with men are asked what they think a society with gender equality might look like, most respond that it would mean there was equal pay, no discrimination in hiring or promotions, and the same standard of respect in the workplace. But a majority also cite a range of other measures that could address the issue, from better paid leave to access to credit and property ownership to improved healthcare and educational facilities. Many of these are measures that have been recommended by the UN and other organizations, but they must be supported with adequate funding to be successful.