World is ‘talking the talk but not walking the walk’ on women’s rights, according to new report

The rhetoric is not being matched by action, says children's charity

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The Independent Online

Well-meaning rhetoric on women’s rights is not being matched by meaningful action, with girls suffering the “double jeopardy” of being young and female, according to a new report.

The world is failing to deliver on gender equality, says the study by children’s charity Plan UK. There is no country where women and men have equal opportunities, equal pay or equal distribution of assets, and domestic violence remains “pervasive, cutting across geography, age, class and race,” states the Pathways to Power report.

More than a quarter of girls and women under 20 have experienced violence at the hands of a partner. Improvements in the legal protection of women are often “fragile” and “not matched by implementation on the ground”.

Despite “extensive legislation” and “years of campaigning” girls in many countries are “disproportionately affected by poverty, injustice, violence and discrimination”. They “are simply ‘less valued’ than boys,” and “grow up as “second-class citizens”, it says.

This comes after today’s Independent featured the plight of hundreds of girls kidnapped by terrorist group Boko Haram in Nigeria six months ago. A number of former British army chiefs and Government ministers are calling for Britain to help rescue more than 200 who remain missing.

The plight of girls around the world has come to the fore in recent months. In June, Angeline Jolie and former foreign secretary William Hague launched a "global summit to end sexual violence in conflict" in London. Weeks later, Prime Minister David Cameron hosted an international "girl summit" on issues such as female genital mutilation, child marriage and domestic violence. And last week Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year-old shot by the Taliban in Pakistan in 2012 for going to school, received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai speaks during Girl Summit 2014 which took place in July (PA)

But for all the focus on girls, their lives “continue to be limited by the double jeopardy of their being young and female,” says the report, released yesterday. Power “still resides largely with men” and it is “shocking” that women still hold so few positions of power. Women make up just 22 per cent of MPs, just 19 countries have female leaders, and only 25 out of the world’s 500 largest corporations have a female chief executive officer.

A commitment to ending discrimination against women and girls and achieving gender equality by 2030 should be included in targets that will replace the Millennium Development Goals after 2015, argues the report. “Sustainable and transformative change” is needed to achieve this, it adds.

Tanya Barron, chief executive of Plan UK, said: “What this report shows is that across the world we are often talking the talk of gender equality but we’re too seldom walking the walk.”

Although progress is being made, “we shouldn’t let the notion that we are now on some irreversible path to equality creep in,” she added.

Angelina Jolie and William Hague speak at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, in London, earlier this year (Getty)

The findings are a “crucial reminder of how far we’ve yet to go to achieve gender equality,” commented Daisy Sands, head of policy and campaigns at the Fawcett Society.

And Seema Malhotra MP, shadow Home Office minister for preventing violence against women and girls, said: “The level of violence against girls in our country and across the globe is horrific.”

Inequality, sexual violence and abuse are among the “most significant challenges facing girls around the world today,” she added.

Britain is “leading international efforts to tackle violence against women and girls,” said a Department for International Development spokeswoman. “We are also helping millions of girls receive an education, find jobs and access financial services in order to build better lives for themselves and their families,” they added.