More from UNDESA Vol 23, No. 03 - March 2020

Just keep fighting, you are not alone

By Marta Vieira da Silva, footballer, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador for women and girls in sports and UN Secretary-General’s SDG Advocate

In 1995, I was a 9-year-old girl living in the village of Dois Riachos, in the Northeast of Brazil. At that early age, I was already fighting to have the same opportunities as boys. I wanted to be out there on the playing field and scoring goals, even if the footballs were made of all sorts of improvised materials. It was hard to fight for myself. I was the only girl in that scenario, and, unfortunately, I was hurt, both physically and emotionally by those boys, and later by coaches and even by my community while I was claiming my rights. That loneliness gave me courage to immediately react and have the necessary drive to move on.

What I didn’t know then was that on the other side of the world, in Beijing, China, hundreds of women were also fighting for me. On September 15 of that year – the last day of the Fourth World Conference on Women – those women managed to finalize The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most visionary agenda for the human rights of women and girls, everywhere. It was adopted by the United Nations and endorsed by 189 countries, committed to work on 12 critical areas: poverty; education and training; health; violence; armed conflict; economy; power and decision-making; institutional mechanisms; human rights; media; environment; and the girl child.

Looking at myself and the status of women and girls in the world twenty-five years later, brings me mixed feelings. Take sports as an example. On the one hand, in recent years, we have seen an upsurge in audiences supporting women’s sports. The latest Women’s World Cup was the most popular ever, with crowds celebrating women’s talent, strength, resilience and professionalism. Women’s movements in different countries are fighting for and winning access to practise sports and attend matches. There are, definitely, more women and girls playing sports nowadays in comparison to 1995.

On the other hand, no country in the world can say it has achieved gender equality yet. Women and girls still have much fewer opportunities to play or to have a career in sports in comparison to men and boys. Even when we do get the opportunity, the facilities, equipment and even the uniforms tend to be of a much inferior quality. We are still fighting not to be harassed or sexually abused. We are still fighting for visibility in the media, free from gender stereotypes. We are still fighting to have the same opportunities for leadership and decision‑making positions in sports organizations. We are still fighting for equal pay, because we play as hard as men’s teams.

But things can change. They did for the girls in Rio de Janeiro and in Buenos Aires who took part in the “One Win Leads to Another” joint programme to empower girls through sports by UN Women and the International Olympic Committee. They told me that many of them used to struggle to guarantee their space in the community sports fields just like I did, twenty-five years ago. Advances for women and girls in sports and in every area of society have been far too slow and uncertain, and we can no longer tolerate that.

Something that’s never changed in my life is my determination to keep fighting for what I believe in. I won’t give up advocating for the rights of women and girls to be who they want to be. And I am not the only one. I am accompanied by women, men, girls and boys with a common vision: achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by 2030, as Goal 5 of the SDGs says. We’re aiming for a new “Generation Equality” no matter what our age, gender or background. Together, we’re building an equal future.

What does that future look like? It’s a world where we have equal rights to play, where we receive equal pay for equal jobs, regardless of our gender, where we share unpaid care and domestic work, where there is not one single case of sexual harassment or violence against women and girls, where health care services respond to our needs, and where women participate equally in politics and in decision-making in all areas of life.

If the sports ecosystem – governments, federations, leagues, clubs, teams, media, NGOs, international organizations, athletes, the private sector and others – take action to level the playing field for women and girls, sports can lead the way in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment across all of society. It can be one of the great drivers of gender equality, by teaching women and girls the values of teamwork, self-reliance and resilience. It can provide girls with social connections and a refuge from violence in their homes and communities and help them to understand their bodies and build confidence and the ability to speak up.

It demands more than political will, though. It demands coordinated action, right now. I know that, together, we can make it. So, in 2030, which is the deadline the world set to have accomplished all the 17 SDGs, I want to be able to look back and see the transformations for all women and girls in the world. And I will look back at the eyes of that 9-year-old girl that I was and say confidently to her: “just keep fighting, you are not alone”.

*The views expressed in this blog are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of UN DESA.

Photo: UN Women/Camille Miranda

What do we share in a sharing economy?

One of the most notable technology-driven developments in the past decade is the meteoric rise of the sharing economy. Sophisticated algorithms that allow efficient matching of supply and demand at unprecedented scale and speed enable the sharing economy platforms to alter consumption and production patterns of millions of people, with economic, social and environmental consequences.

Since providing its first trip in San Francisco in 2010, Uber’s operation has expanded to over 700 cities around the world today, accumulating a total of 10 billion trips between 2010 and 2018. Airbnb went from serving only 20,000 guests in 2009 to, as of the first quarter of 2019, listing more rooms globally than some of the world’s largest hotels – Marriott, Hilton, Wyndham and InterContinental Hotels Group – combined.

This head-spinning expansion of the sharing economy has given rise to both hope and anxiety. On one hand, the sharing economy creates tremendous economic opportunities. Its platforms are offering solutions to large-scale coordination problems that have marred the provision of transportation, housing, ambulances, agricultural machinery, and many other resources. By making better use of underutilized assets, these platforms have improved economic efficiency and consumer welfare – in the form of lower costs, expanded choices, and quicker, more flexible access to goods and services.

At the same time, there are increasing concerns that this new phenomenon will not live up to its “sharing” name and that the welfare gains it produces will not be distributed fairly. Several forces are at play in the sharing economy that – if left unchecked – could further worsen inequality in an already highly unequal world. These forces – including network effects, information asymmetry, structural inequality and deep‑seated discrimination – could distribute gains disproportionately to large firms and high-income and highly educated individuals.

The net impact of the sharing economy will depend on each country’s development conditions and policies. The effect on developing countries could very well be different from that in developed countries. The sharing economy has the potential to provide the disadvantaged with better access to productive assets. In places with poor labour conditions, it can  provide some gradual improvements. It can also expand employment opportunities for women where strict cultural norms prevent them from taking on gainful employment.

All these changes could make the sharing economy a force for good and for improving equality in developing countries. But its ultimate impact on equality will depend on regulations that enhance market competition, access to data, pricing and algorithm transparency, and tax cooperation, among others.

For a deep dive into the effects of the sharing economy on inequality, read the latest UN DESA Frontier Technology Quarterly.

SDG 5 in numbers

The world is a better place for women today than it was in the past. Fewer girls are forced into early marriage; more women are serving in parliament and positions of leadership; and laws are being reformed to advance gender equality.

Despite these gains, discriminatory laws and social norms remain pervasive, along with harmful practices and other forms of violence against women and girls. Women continue to be underrepresented at all levels of political leadership. Across the globe, women and girls perform a disproportionate share of unpaid domestic work.

Moreover, they continue to face barriers with respect to their sexual and reproductive health and rights, including legal restrictions and lack of autonomy in decision-making. Among the most disadvantaged are women and girls who face the compounded effects of gender and other forms of discrimination.

Achieving gender equality will require bold and sustainable actions that address the structural impediments and root causes of discrimination against women. Equally important, it will require laws and policies that advance gender equality, backed by adequate resources, as well as stronger accountability for commitments made to women’s rights.

Access more data and information on the indicators for SDG 5 in the SDG Progress Report 2019.

For the latest on persisting gender gaps in labour markets, working conditions, wages and many other business areas, read our World Economic Situation and Prospects Monthly Briefing.

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