That’s how long ago the first International Women’s Day took place. On March 19, 1911, over a million people worldwide rallied for equal rights. They demanded that women have the right to work, receive vocational training, hold public office, and vote.
A lot has changed in 108 years, but we’ve still got a long way to go.
Across the globe, women are still legally prevented from having the same economic opportunities as men. In some places, women are barred from having a bank account, or can’t own the land that they farm. 1,000 young women are still infected with HIV every single day, and millions of girls are still out of school. These are some of the realities that make it harder for women to escape global poverty.
If we don’t speed things up, it will take 108 years more to achieve gender equality. That means inequality could likely outlive every single person who reads this. Every girl born this year may face inequality throughout her whole life. This is unacceptable.
This year cannot be a halfway point. If we want equality, we need to step up now and demand real progress for women everywhere.
Luckily, no one is fighting this fight alone.
We contacted 45 activists from across the African continent who are leading the charge fighting for gender equality. We asked them to share their vision for gender equality and what world leaders need to do to achieve it. Despite their different focuses and various fields of work, they all shared a common sentiment: we need to create a world where everyone has the same opportunities.
Their responses came together in a powerful open letter. They are urging world leaders to make real progress towards ending inequality. But, this letter isn’t just about the activists who wrote it and the leaders who are acting on it – it’s about you.
You, reading this right now, have the opportunity to stand with them. You have the chance to join a global movement and stand in solidarity, with the women who contributed to this letter, and with every woman.
None of us are equal until all of us are equal. No matter where you live or what gender you are, you have a voice in this fight. Now is the time for you to use it and make sure we leave no woman behind.
Sign this open letter to stand with women and girls everywhere:
Dear World Leaders,
We are the women at the frontlines of the fight against gender inequality and global poverty.
Every day we see the determination and dignity of girls and women facing down the toughest challenges. We see real advances and the power of people to achieve change. We won’t surrender this fight, but we need you to play your part.
You promised to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030, but at the current rate of progress, this will take 108 years. This is unacceptable. We need genuine progress, not grand promises.
We want implementation and accountability at every level – from this year’s G7 Summit to the Global Fund Replenishment; from our African Union leaders to our community leaders. We will be looking for your actions not your words; for funding to follow promises; and policy to turn into practice. It’s both the right and the smart thing to do for everyone.
To accelerate progress men must demand change with us so that we rise united not divided. And women must have a seat at the decision-making table – because you can’t change what you don’t see.
We’re not looking for your sympathy, we’re demanding your action. Because none of us are equal until all of us are equal.