As the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly nears, gender equality is confirmed as a major focus for development goals post-2015. To quote the UN Secretary General's recently released report, A Life of Dignity for All, "The new agenda must ensure the equal rights of women and girls, their full participation in the political, economic and public spheres and zero tolerance for violence against or exploitation of women and girls."
This is a welcome crucial step towards progress. Improving the status of women is central to achieving sustainable growth. From ensuring families have proper healthcare, to making certain children receive an education; from contributing to economic growth to achieving good governance, women must be included if we are to make progress in global development efforts. This argument resounds worldwide.
For example, I was recently in Tanzania with the African First Ladies Initiative discussing some of Africa's most pressing challenges including climate change, maternal health, education, violence against women, child marriage and women's economic empowerment. These issues are not unique to Africa. These are global issues that must be addressed across the world. We will have a greater chance to overcome these challenges if we engage women in the process. Likewise, a failure to address gender inequality will undermine our ability as a global community to achieve other development goals. Ending child marriage ensures that our daughters can continue their education and grow up to be empowered women with the ability to contribute to development efforts. Preventing violence against women and girls puts us in a position where we can live and work safely and productively alongside men. Women's economic empowerment results in benefits for families and economies as a whole. When women are given the opportunity to become financially independent, they create jobs, rise up as leaders in their communities and re-invest profits in their children's welfare. Eliminating discrimination against women is a strategy that will move global development progress forward. We will fail to achieve lasting positive change if women are excluded. Ahead of the UN General Assembly Special Event to Follow up Efforts Made Towards Achieving the Millennium Development Goals, we must redouble our efforts to build on this momentum so that gender equality remains at the forefront of the post-2015 development agenda both as a stand-alone goal and integrated across the new framework. There are mothers, wives, businesswomen, leaders, mentors, caretakers, champions for environmental sustainability and many more, ready and willing to contribute towards a fair, peaceful and prosperous world for all. Together we can seize this historic opportunity to ensure equality of opportunity for women and further progress for everyone post 2015.