International Women's Day: A Time to Reflect on What Has Been Done to Secure World Gender Equality


Following on from my blog last week, I wanted to use the opportunity of International Women's Day to further discuss the issues that are affecting women and children around the world and specifically in emerging markets. We are making strides with equality but there is still so much to be done.

Many of these emerging countries including China and India are leading in terms of global economic growth, but are moving in the opposite direction when it comes to gender equality and complete economic change.

Emerging markets are not making use of women's talents and are facilitating an environment that is not only stunting for female aspirations, but can also become dangerous for women, which was illustrated by the shooting of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban for campaigning for women's rights to education.

This year the G8 presidency is held by the UK and prime minister David Cameron's priority will be the global economy. As part of this, Britain will pledge to continue its committed to fighting violence against women and children around the world.

The areas that need to be addressed by all G8 members in order to combat global gender inequality and secure safety and economic security for all are:

Equality education A major problem in the emerging markets is that gender inequality is a deep cultural issue. Girls are taught at a young age not to aspire to secure an education and that they are in no way equal to their male counterparts. Whilst this is ingrained in girls, boys are also being educated and immersed in a mentality that they are superior to girls and they have more rights than girls. While this sort of education continues it will be challenging to change the mind-set that boys, who grow up to be men have and this will continue to impact the global struggle for change. G8 countries need to encourage countries to develop state programmes to educate children from a young age in schools, faith centers and community centres, about the importance of gender equality.

Equality at conception Many countries throughout the globe struggle with a culture that prefers sons to daughters. China's one child policy in particular produces very worrying side effects and has triggered a number of unethical practices amongst Chinese parents in order to get rid of their female offspring. This includes neonaticide (killing infants that are less than one day old), infanticide (killing infants that are more than one day old), and the practice of disposing of female children in favour of male offspring.

As a result of these terminations, there is a huge shortage of Chinese women to marry Chinese men and this has triggered a new wave of human trafficking in the region. Women are trafficking into China from Burma to combat the lack of women to marry. A recent report from the Burmese government said 80 per cent of human trafficking cases in Burma over the last five years involved women being smuggled to China for forced marriage. Many of these women are then subjected to a life time of poor treatment by their husbands. This is a deep routed cultural issue that needs to be addressed on a global scale in order to achieve any type of change. The G8 leaders need to address this and work to identify ways to move forward together to create an environment that women are equal and safe in the communities they are born into.

Economic freedom Access to finance for women is improving throughout the world, with more banks opening in emerging markets and greater access to micro-financing programmes. But we must not let the global financial crisis deter this progress. By neglecting 50% of the population, the economic crisis will only continue to grow and ultimately emerging market economies will not deliver to their full potential.

In these challenging financial times the world cannot afford to ignore the collective potential of women to contribute to economic development whilst improving the wellbeing of their families. Access to finance is so important for women in emerging markets, where it enables them to re-invest in agriculture, solar panels or even start a small factory to bring employment to their communities.

I welcome G8's commitment to ending violence against women, genital mutilation and an additional commitment to the fight against human trafficking. Britain is committed to take a lead on these issues in the world across borders and I hope for continuing change to secure true equality throughout the world.