Global Goals Promise Transformative Change for Women and Girls

shutterstock_262886267History will be made next week when world leaders adopt the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. After three years of intense negotiations, governments, civil society groups and international agencies have crafted a universal vision for the future of the world’s people and planet.

The 17 goals in the 2030 Agenda aim to address the social, economic and environmental factors that affect the overall health and well-being of our world—from eradicating poverty and reducing inequalities, to protecting biodiversity and addressing climate change, to providing access to justice for all.

Women’s groups were deeply involved in this process every step of the way, spending days and nights in long and often difficult negotiations. We knew that much was, and is, at stake for the girls of today and tomorrow. If this agenda is successfully carried out, by 2030 fewer girls will experience unwanted pregnancy and become infected with HIV. Child marriage will be a thing of the past. Girls will be in school, and they will have access to essential and often lifesaving sexual and reproductive health information and care. They will be able to realize their human rights and lead lives free of violence.

Thanks to the perseverance and dedication of women’s rights activists, we won impressive and detailed commitments to advance gender equality and empower all women and girls. Specifically, governments have committed to:

  • End discrimination and gender-based violence;
  • Eliminate child marriage and female genital mutilation;
  • Ensure access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services and education for all;
  • Protect women’s and girls’ reproductive rights;
  • Eliminate gender disparities in schools and ensure equal access to education;
  • Provide education that promotes gender equality and human rights;
  • Expand women’s economic opportunities and recognize their rights to control land and other resources;
  • Reduce the burdens of unpaid care work on women and girls; and
  • Ensure women’s full and effective participation in decision-making and equal opportunities for leadership.

Taken together, these commitments put us on a path to ensure that all women and girls can lead full, healthy and empowered lives.

For too long, women and girls have borne the brunt of economic, social and environmental crises. This new global agenda promises to level the playing field. The framework is even more historic because it is universal, applying to rich countries as well as poor ones—meaning that even countries like the United States will have to carry out these goals.

To be sure, the 2030 Agenda is not perfect. It does not go far enough in addressing the systemic imbalances in global finance and trade that tip the scales in favor of rich countries. Moving forward, we have to lessen the burden of debt on poor countries, which will undoubtedly struggle to achieve these goals otherwise. And we have to push for more concrete financial commitments from all governments to fund this ambitious agenda.

The International Women’s Health Coalition and our sisters in the global women’s movement will be watching as heads of state formally adopt the 2030 Agenda. More importantly, we will be vigilant over the next 15 years to make sure this promise of a better world becomes a reality.

Women and girls everywhere deserve no less.

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Françoise Girard is president of the International Women’s Health Coalition.