What's holding us back from a more equitable world?

What's holding us back from a more equitable world?

I hope you are enjoying these summer months. I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you a number of key organisations I have been working with and highlight the critical issues regarding gender equality, women's rights and peace building.

As always I hope you are able to take some time to recharge and reflect during the summer, whilst also think about what you can do to ensure we live in a more equitable world!

All my best,

Baroness Goudie

Forced Marriage

This month during the Motion to Take Note of the Women Deliver Conference in London that discuss the role of the United Kingdom in promoting global gender equality and sexual reproductive health and rights, I brought to the attention of the conference the topic of honour killings, FGM and child marriage. I asked if the Government will make a pledge to go back to the Home Office charging people to bring members of their families back to this country. Since 9 January 2019, no-one assisted by the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) has been offered a loan. The FMU works closely with charities, shelters and safe houses in a number of countries to ensure victims of forced marriage and FGM can get to a place of safety overseas, and with organisations in the UK to support them on return. From now on, none of those who are assisted by the Forced Marriage Unit - and may previously have been offered a loan - will have to cover the costs of their repatriation. Where possible, the Government will continue to seek to ensure the costs fall on the perpetrators by means of Forced Marriage Protection Orders (FMPOs). On 18 January 2019, the Foreign Secretary wrote to the Foreign Affairs Committee outlining this policy change.

VOW to End Child Marriage

Child marriage is a terrible violation of human rights that still affects 12 million girls each year. My dear Mabel van Oranje is launching a new initiative to continue to tackle this global issue.

I share with you a message from her and encourage you to support this critical initiative:

About ‘VOW To End Child Marriage’

In 2011, while I was CEO at The Elders, we created Girls Not Brides, a global civil society partnership to end child marriage that has grown to over 1200 member organisations across 101 countries. I am so proud of what Girls Not Brides and our partners have achieved since then, from increased visibility of the issue, to a greater understanding of what it will take to end the harmful practice, to many new laws, national strategies and programmes.

However, there is a lot more to do. In particular, grassroots organisations and activists – those who play a critical role in effectively reaching girls, their families and the communities where child marriage happens – need more funding. This is where VOW comes in.

In October, we launched ‘VOW To End Child Marriage’, a new initiative which mobilises the multi-billion dollar wedding industry, along with couples, their friends and families, in support of ending child marriage. The idea is simple: When a couple says ‘I DO,’ we can all help girls at risk of child marriage to say ‘I DON’T’.  

VOW enables couples, their guests and friends to donate directly to efforts to end child marriage, purchase VOW products, or align their wedding registries with VOW. All funds generated by VOW will support grassroots efforts across the globe to end child marriage.

We have already enlisted a number of leading companies as early VOW partners, including The Knot and Crate & Barrel, and are engaging networks of local wedding vendors. VOW is strongly resonating with engaged couples and the public, and has rocketed to become one of the top five charities selected by registered couples through “The Knot Gifts Back” program. VOW has also already generated more than 1.5 million individual actions across social media since its launch. We are working hard to build momentum for this initiative, and hope that you will help.

How you can help to make VOW a stellar success

Here are a few things that you can do:

-          Help us find a great CEO for VOW (NY-based). More information about this recruitment can be found here.

-          Encourage family and friends who are planning weddings or renewing their vows to align gift registries with VOW partners;

-          If you are celebrating an anniversary, ask friends to give a donation to VOW instead of a gift;

-          Share your suggestions of companies and local vendors (such as florists, hairdressers, cake makers, dressmakers, wedding venue providers) that might want to align their products and services with VOW.

Thank you for your support! 

For more information about how VOW works, who our partners are, and how to join us, please visit www.VOWtoEndChildMarriage.org.

OECD Forum 2019, Paris

The OECD Forum was created in 2000 to discuss the key economic and social challenges on the international agenda. It is an important part of the annual OECD Week that also features the OECD main Ministerial meeting. This 2-day public engagement event gathers high-level government representatives, CEOs, leaders from civil society and trade unions as well as prominent members of academia and media.

It was a pleasure to be part of a panel on Social Media and Identities with Seyi Akiwowo, Founder and Executive Director, Glitch; Eun Jung Bae, YouTuber, Korea; Member, Escape the Corset; Rebekah Tromble, Assistant Professor, Institute of Political Science, Leiden University, The Netherlands.

The panel looked at the dark side of social media, including trolling, self harm, and suicide. Discussing the legislation that needs to be in place to prevent these harmful interactions online.

According to a recent UN report on cyber violence against women and girls, one in ten women in Europe has experienced some kind of online abuse after the age of 15. Recent research, conducted by Amnesty International shows that women – specifically, female politicians and journalists in the United Kingdom and United States – received abusive messages every 30 seconds on Twitter in 2017. The research also exposes the intersectional nature of online abuse by highlighting that women of colour, women from ethnic or religious minorities, and women from the LGBT community receive most abuse. This phenomenon is considered to be very important as it shows how online abuse targets not only gender, race or sexual orientation, but focuses also on many other elements such as appearance or beliefs, and can have a profound impact on marginalised groups in our society.

It is evident that self regulation is not working. Governments and social media businesses need to come together to agree legislation to protect users. This is a topic that cannot be blamed on or lead by only one party. Social media brought up many unprecedented issues and also has played a positive role in bringing people together from across the world to make social change. However, it is now time to apply proper regulation that is necessary for any large media or corporate operation.

Find out more about the OECD Forum 2019 here.

Walking the Walk on Diversity, Inclusion and Accountability: Beyond #metoo

A post by Stephenie Foster


Late last week, Nature Conservancy CEO Mark Tercek announced he would step down, the organization’s latest departure in the wake of an investigation into sexual harassment and workplace misconduct. His departure came one week after the resignation of Nature Conservancy President Brian McPeek amid swirling complaints about workplace culture.

Workplace sexual harassment and assault are wrong. And, they are costly — both to those who experience it and to employers. Between 25 and 80 percent of women in the U.S. will experience workplace sexual harassment in her lifetime. Working in geographically isolated environments and male dominated professions makes employees more prone to harassment and assault, as does not having legal status and working in workplaces with significant power imbalances (from my perspective, that is almost everyworkplace).

Employee cost is staggering and personal: depression and anxiety, loss of confidence, decreased opportunities, forced job change, unemployment, and career abandonment. Research shows that 80 percent of women who experience sexual harassment leave their jobs within two years (as compared to 50 percent otherwise).

There is also a large cost to employers: loss of talented employees and their skills, legal fees, retraining costs, high turnover rates, low morale, and decreased productivity. Research shows that companies lose $28,000 (in 2018 dollars) in productivity per each person working on a team affected by harassment.

No sector or workplace can afford these costs. Every institution is at risk and must take action. Mission-driven organizations, like civil society organizations, humanitarian and development organizations, and governments are not immune. In fact, there have been well-publicized incidents in these sectors over the last several years.

I recently moderated a session with civil society leaders at the Open Government Partnership Summit in Ottawa. We focused on the following questions:

  1. What has worked to prevent, and respond, to workplace sexual harassment, especially in mission-driven organizations?

  2. What can influence organizational leaders who are skeptical?

  3. How can you build strong support at all levels of an organization for addressing these issues?

  4. How can an organization create and maintain a supportive environment for those who come forward?

During this session, we heard from women who had experienced workplace harassment, and from organizations that have reformed workplace policies. Here are five takeaways:

  1. Organizations need both strong leadership and staff engagement:Leaders and managers set the tone for how an organization responds to anything, including sexual harassment. Leaders need to also empower and involve staff in developing solutions. These staff-driven conversations can be transformational and lead to policies that exceed legal requirements and create new norms.

  2. Organizations need to invest in internal capabilities, develop clear processes and safeguard those who report. Organizations need to have full time HR staff, clear standards for behavior, policies and processes for addressing complaints, and effective training. They also must support those who experience harassment, and not just address those who commit it. Everyone needs to understand the process and it must be as transparent as possible while protecting privacy.

  3. Non-staff actors, like board members and funders, play a key role.Boards of directors hire and fire organizational leadership. In doing so, they must hold the organization’s CEO accountable for policies she has put in place — or not — on this key topic. Not addressing workplace harassment is disrespectful to employees, is costly and undermines the organization’s mission. Funders are especially influential in the non-governmental world as NGOs are dependent on them to keep their doors open. Funders need to pay attention, ask questions about what policies are in place, and fund organizations to develop safe workplaces.

  4. But, having a sexual harassment policy is not enough. Addressing harassment needs to be part of developing a workplace culture that values every employee’s contribution. This includes policies that reflect how an organization values employees, such as equitable pay and promotion policies and family leave policies. This should be accompanied by regular meetings, training, and conversations on gender policy and other inclusion policies.

  5. Learning from others is key. It’s important to share best practices and understand how other NGOs and institutions are applying gender equality and inclusion principles. Mission-driven organizations, often with employees across the globe in remote locations, face unique challenges. There needs to be a way to share what has worked, and build in opportunities for coaching.

These can be difficult issues, but taking steps to build strong processes, implement them, and ensure that every employee feels valued will go a long way to ensuring a workplaces where people can do the best job possible.

Protect all that we have gained for women, girls and boys around the world

Protect all that we have gained for women, girls and boys around the world

A Guest Blog for Plan UK: Really reaching the most marginalised? The role of research in understanding the realities of girls’ lives

A Guest Blog for Plan UK: Really reaching the most marginalised? The role of research in understanding the realities of girls’ lives