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Equality for Girls & Women


Discrimination hinders development

While men and women are born equal, gender inequality still persists in every society. The deep-rooted belief that women do not deserve equal treatment underpins violence against women and is used to deny girls and women fair access to education, health, employment, property and influence.

The failure to root out prejudice against girls and women is one of the major barriers to progress and prosperity. Gender discrimination also breaches international human rights agreements and domestic laws in most countries.

There are signs of progress. During the lifetimes of the Elders, in almost every society and in every area, women are breaking down the barriers which have held them and their daughters back for so long. Gender equality is increasingly understood to be a major policy priority for governments worldwide, and its realisation is one of the Sustainable Development Goals.


The Elders' position

The Elders are totally committed to supporting equality for men and women, girls and boys, in all aspects of life.

When girls and women’s rights are denied, their whole community suffers. For societies to flourish, The Elders believe women must be given the security and opportunity they need to make the most of their talents, participate fully in their communities, and live a life free from abuse and neglect.

However, if women are to enjoy equal rights and participate fully in their societies, this cannot be a fight left to girls and women alone. Each person, whether male or female, is responsible for respecting the rights of girls and women and challenging practices which foster discrimination and unfair treatment.

Everyone - men and women, girls and boys - stands to gain. Equal societies are healthier, safer and more prosperous.


The Elders' work

Equality for girls and women has been a core priority for the Elders since the group was founded and has formed a central part of all their work - from promoting the role of women in peace-building, to meeting women’s groups whenever they visit a country in crisis.

In 2009, The Elders took on the impact of religion and tradition on women’s rights as a major concern. Between 2010 and 2012, this work focused on addressing the harmful practice of child marriage.

The Elders have also supported efforts to promote women as peacemakers, including holding a public ‘town hall meeting’ together with The Carter Center in Atlanta in November 2014, and highlighted the specific burdens and responsibilities women face in societies most threatened by climate change. Throughout their work, they continue to challenge taboos and prejudices on forced marriage, bonded labour, sexual violence in conflict and broader patriarchal structures in the political sphere and at the grassroots.

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