Friday, October 11, 2019

On International Day of the Girl, Let's Focus on Future Progress

If there is one thing I have learned from my more than two decades in the social impact and global development field, women and girls are one of the most powerful forces of change.
This was demonstrated to me time and again during my travels, from the community health worker in rural Ethiopia educating other women on the benefits to them and their children of family planning, to young mothers in India demanding that community leaders invest in sustainable clean water stations.
As Melinda Gates says, empowered women transform societies.
“From high rates of education, employment and economic growth to low rates of teen births, domestic violence, and crime – the inclusion and elevation of women correlate with the signs of a healthy society. Women’s rights and society’s health and wealth rise together,” she writes in her recent book, The Moment of Lift.
Largest Gathering of Women and Girls in Africa
Next June, more than 1,500 people will gather in Durban, South Africa, for the Women & Girls Africa Summit 2020. I am privileged to be part of the Summit Advisory Committee, which is helping conference organizers develop a robust program round five key tracks: Health, Economic Empowerment, Education, Gender-related Policy and Law, and Technology for Empowerment.
With attendees expected from more than 75 countries, the Summit portends to be the largest gathering of women and girls in Africa. A roster of internationally recognized speakers will participate in thought-provoking debates, TEDx-like talks and workshop sessions.
I am excited to be among the attendees, seeing old and meeting new friends and colleagues, learning from the experiences of others, and lending my voice to help galvanize action toward gender parity, inclusion and empowerment.
More progress is needed….
Although many African countries, notably Rwanda, South Africa, Burundi and Namibia, have achieved important milestones towards gender parity across education, health, economic and political systems, there remains much to be done.
Every day across the expansive continent, women strive to develop and maintain sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their families. They run small businesses, secure microloans to start new businesses, and engage in all types of activities to put food on their tables, send their children to school, and pay for healthcare. They also serve in Board rooms, lead governments, and represent their countries on the world stage.
As Africa faces the next decade, full of economic potential and promise, the role of African women will become even more crucial to achieve robust economic growth and drive access to universal health and education for people across the continent.
Empowering African women in the economy and closing gender gaps in the world of work are also key to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For example:
  • Research shows that women’s economic equality is good for business. Companies greatly benefit from increasing employment and leadership opportunities for women, which is shown to increase organizational effectiveness and growth.
  • Healthier women contribute to better-educated and more productive societies.
  • Farms run by educated women show increases in yields up to 22 percent.
  • If 10 percent more adolescent girls attend school, a country’s GDP increases by an average of 3 percent.
  • Ensuring women’s control over their own fertility can boost the pace of economic growth and development.
Lend your voice to the discussion
The Women & Girls Africa Summit 2020 will be an unprecedented opportunity to advance key objectives vital for the next decade. Objectives critical not only to women, but to businesses, governments and civil society organizations.
If you or your organization works or invests in Africa, I urge you to be part of next year’s Summit as an attendee, speaker or sponsor. For more information, visit or follow updates on twitter at @wagsafrica 
Once again, I’ll turn to Melinda Gates for the final word: “If you want to lift up humanity, empower women. It is the most comprehensive, pervasive, high-leverage investment you can make in human beings.”

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