Open letter: Poverty is sexist

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Women in Salima district, Malawi [Wikipedia]

ONE, the campaigning and advocacy organisation co-founded by Bono, asked a group of business leaders, artists, and activists to send an open letter to two influential women.

The open letter is addressed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and South Africa’s Minister of Health Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Those who agree with the call for leaders to take real action that leads to real change can add their name to the campaign by signing the petition.

Dear Chancellor Merkel and Chairwoman Dlamini-Zuma,

Thank you for your leadership and the example you offer all girls and women.

In June this year you will both chair key summits at which you have placed women’s empowerment on the agenda – one in Germany, one in South Africa. These meetings are just before the historic global summit on how to finance the new Sustainable Development Goals in Addis Ababa, which will be followed by the unveiling of these goals in New York in September.

The timing is such that if your summits reach the right agreements, great financing and momentum around girls and women’s empowerment can be placed at the heart of the new global goals. That in turn will frame how global policies are decided, and trillions of dollars spent, over the next 15 years.

For the girl who can’t go to a decent primary or secondary school or access healthcare, or who is forced to marry while still a child; for the mothers threatened with death when they give life and who aren’t allowed to decide when to have their next child; for the women who can’t own or inherit the land she farms, nor open a bank account, own a phone, access electricity or the legal system; for the infant girl who doesn’t legally exist because her birth wasn’t registered and the government hasn’t the capacity to collect data on her or her village; for the women and girls who can’t take those who are violent towards them to court nor access justice – let’s make sure they all count.

Put simply, poverty is sexist, and we won’t end it unless we face up to the fact that girls and women get a raw deal, and until leaders and citizens around the world work together for real change. Because when we deliver for girls and women, we deliver for everyone.

Realising women’s rights helps deliver everyone’s rights.

If we get this right, we could help lift every girl and woman out of poverty by 2030 – and by doing so we will lift everyone. Get this wrong and extreme poverty, inequality and instability might spread in the most vulnerable regions, impacting all our futures.

The choice is obvious and we know where you stand personally. But the course you set as leaders in this historic year will be critical in either creating momentum or slowing it down.

In 2015 let’s all have the courage to demand better and follow through with the resources and policies that it will take to end extreme poverty by 2030. Millions of girls and women around the world will applaud your decisiveness – and will help ensure the promises made this year are truly kept into the future.

Ali Hewson, Founder, Edun and Nude
Angelique Kidjo, Singer, Songwriter and Activist
Angellah Kairuki, Member of Parliament (Tanzania)
Ann Cairns, President, International Markets, MasterCard
Arianna Huffington, Chair, President, and Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post Media Group
Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Entertainer and Entrepreneur
Charlize Theron, Actress, UN Messenger of Peace, Founder of Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project
Christy Turlington Burns, Founder, Every Mother Counts
Cindi Leive, Editor-in-Chief, Glamour Magazine
Danai Gurira, Actress, Playwright and Activist
Gesine Schwan, Professor and Former Presidential Candidate
Helene Gayle, President and CEO, CARE
Jude Kelly, CBE, Artistic Director, Southbank Centre
Jutta Allmendinger, Professor and Ph.D., President of the Wissenschaftszentrum
Karen Kornbluh, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations*
Karen Ruimy, Musician, Performer and Author
Lady Gaga, Singer and Songwriter
Lauren Bush Lauren, Founder and CEO, FEED
Mabel van Oranje, Initiator and Chair, Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage
Maria Furtwängler, Actress and Physician
Marian Salzman, CEO, Havas PR
Mariella Frostrup, Journalist and Cofounder of GREAT Initiative
Meryl Streep
Michele Sullivan, President and Director of Corporate Social Innovation, The Caterpillar Foundation
Mimi Alemayehou, Development Finance Executive
Monica Musonda, CEO and Founder of Java Foods (Zambia)
Mpule Kwelagobe, Activist
Naisula Lesuuda, Senator (Kenya)
Rita Wilson, Actress, Producer and Singer
Rosamund Pike, Actress
Sabine Christiansen, Journalist, Producer and UNICEF-Ambassador
Sarah Silverman, Comedian, Actress and Activist
Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
Sheryl WuDunn, Banker and Author
Susan Shabangu, Minister of Women’s Affairs (South Africa)
Yvonne Chaka Chaka, President of the Princess of Africa Foundation, Activist and Singer

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