UN@70: Sustainable Development Goals Offer Opportunity to Achieve Gender Equality

Harare, 15 October 2015 - The 11th and 15th October are days set aside to commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child and International Day of the Rural Women, respectively. The days recognise the rights of women and girls, the unique challenges they face and the unique talents that they possess.Food_Rev_0_0.jpg

The newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer an opportunity for a global commitment to achieve gender equality and to breaking intergenerational transmission of poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination – and realizing our vision of a life of dignity for all.

Our task now, under the recently adopted 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and its landmark 17 global goals, is to get to work on meeting the SDG targets and making good on our promises to give girls all the opportunities they deserve as they mature to adulthood by 2030.

That means keeping girls in school and enabling them to acquire an education and the skills they need to become full and productive citizens of Zimbabwe. This requires among other things ensuring their access to sexual health and reproductive rights. It also means protecting girl children from child marriages and other sexual violence and abuse. If we achieve this progress for girls, we will see advances across society.

We are determined to invest in today's adolescent girls so that tomorrow they can stand strong as citizens, political leaders, entrepreneurs, heads of their households and more. This will secure their rights and our common future.

Today’s 15-year-old girls were born at the advent of the Millennium Development Goals into a world of hope. Not all those hopes were fulfilled. We have unfinished business. Far too many women and girls continue to be discriminated against, subjected to violence, denied equal opportunities in education and employment, and excluded from positions of leadership and decision-making. Many have already dropped out of school to look after family members or engage in informal work to help support their families.

Globally, more than 250 million of 15-year-olds are already married. Zimbabwe has a high child marriage burden with 1 in 4 of all teenage girls being married. Unmet family planning needs continue to expose too many to HIV infection.  An adolescent girl dies by violent means every 10 minutes somewhere in the world. We must work to reverse these trends.  This, and the generations that follow them, are the young women for whom we are working so hard.

The United Nations in Zimbabwe fully supports the national priority of empowering girls and rural women in Zimbabwe. In line with the principle and strategic goal of empowerment, the UN has been supporting the alignment of laws and policies to the Constitution, the development of a national Gender Based Violence Strategy as well as advocacy for and provision of quality social services, including maternal health, sexual and reproductive health, and HIV & AIDS services across the country.

We need to do more however. Evidence indicates that rural women in Zimbabwe still carry the heaviest of burdens. According to the 2012 national census report, 67% of the country’s population live in the rural areas, and approximately 52% of this rural population are women. These women and girls often have limited access to social services, economic opportunities, as well as information and decision-making platforms.

As we look ahead to 2030, let us be able to say that today we marked a milestone in the quest to realize full and lasting gender equality.