4 Reasons Why Women’s Equality Should Be at the Forefront of the G7
The annual meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) member states is a renewed opportunity for countries to unite and advance just policies that benefit global economies and security. For the past two years, the G7 host countries, Canada and France, championed issues of equality. These discussions added a gendered perspective to the conversation on aid and development and made an important contribution to the health and prosperity of women worldwide. Now, the United States has the power to create meaningful change as the host of this year’s G7. The Trump administration has put forward efforts to advance equality but has yet to announce equality as a policy priority heading into this year’s G7.
Coronavirus has infiltrated the health, livelihood, and strength of families and economies worldwide. Now, more than ever, it is important to promote equitable policies in order to restore the loss being felt in communities around the world. Women cannot be left out of the conversation when efforts to rebuild begin. Currently, one in three essential jobs are held by women, particularly nonwhite women. While women were on the frontlines facing coronavirus as caregivers and healthcare workers, other women at home were losing their jobs at a higher rate than men. Nearly 60 percent of layoffs in the first wave of the pandemic were women. Therefore, we must strengthen our communities and put the well-being of women and families at the forefront of our policymaking. The conversations surrounding women’s equality from the past two G7 meetings cannot be lost amidst current challenges. They should be carried into this year’s G7, as women and their families stand to lose the most from the hardships imposed by coronavirus.
1. There is a critical need for policies to focus on equality
Systematic injustice, inequality, violence, and discriminatory practices destroy opportunities for women around the world. The Women 7 estimates that one girl under the age of 18 is forced into marriage every two seconds; that’s nearly 12 million girls annually who are married during their childhood, often meaning they cannot return to school and finish their education. Sexual violence and abuse against women and girls has become a threat worldwide. Each day 137 women are killed by a member of their own family. Women, even in some of the world’s most developed and powerful nations, are left out of the conversation regarding childcare and reproductive healthcare, face normalized physical and sexual violence in their homes and communities, and struggle to receive equal protection under the law. Women and girls of color in the United States are twice as likely to be discriminated against in school, nearly four times as likely to die from preventable pregnancy complications, and twice as likely to be imprisoned and impoverished. These statistics, while devastating, highlight the unequal treatment of women and women of color. This should be a catalyst for change and proof of the desperate need to implement legislation that advances equality.
2. Empowering women will charge the economy
While we should be motivated to fight for equality because it is a basic human right, equality is also our best chance to strengthen and grow our economies. Without this investment, countries are missing their opportunity to mobilize one of the world’s largest emerging markets—women. While we know women account for nearly 50 percent of the population, 62 percent of women globally don’t have access to financial institutions or bank accounts, 104 countries still have laws preventing women from working in specific jobs, and the majority of people without access to technology in rural areas are women and girls. Even in regions where women may be able to access these resources, without necessary support systems in place like affordable childcare, paid family leave, and education, women will be unable to take and hold a job while supporting their family. We need to invest in women and give them equal opportunities if we would like to close the increasing gaps in social and economic equality. By investing in women’s empowerment and equality, we are able to elevate future women leaders, women-led businesses, and women suffering from extreme poverty.
3. The history of feminist foreign policy has led to this moment
After Sweden dubbed the term “feminist foreign policy” when announcing new legislation to increase its commitment to gender equality, Canada put forward its own “feminist foreign policy” via the Feminist International Assistance Policy. Canada’s legislative framework included a narrowed focus on development and international assistance for women. The UK Labour Party and Women’s Equality Party used their platforms to advocate for women’s equality worldwide as well. In preparation for the 2019 G7, France’s Gender Equality Advisory Council put forth a “Call to Action” with recommendations for advancing gender equality and empowering women and girls. Its “Call to Action” recommended countries identify and abolish discriminatory laws and enact and implement progressive legislation to advance gender equality. The Council gained international recognition and its policy recommendations became the backbone for France’s “feminist foreign policy.” In the recent past, the United States has increased investment in women-owned, women-led, or women-serving enterprises through the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative and Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act. Despite the building momentum, the United States has yet to announce equality as a flagship priority for this year’s G7. It has an incredibly powerful opportunity to lead the charge in promoting the needs of women at this year’s meeting.
4. G7 member states have the power to influence issues affecting women
The G7 represents the major industrial economies. These countries and their economies can commit to policies that advance the success of women worldwide. Putting forward a “feminist foreign policy” can jumpstart important discussions and guide the direction of other countries’ policies or rhetoric. It’s up to the United States, the next host country for the G7, to carry on the precedent set by Canada and France to heighten the focus on women and equality.