Poverty is Sexist: Oprah Winfrey, Melinda Gates, Sheryl Sandberg, Bono, Sir Elton John and Muhammad Ali among names joining ONE Campaign’s call for global gender equality

Ahead of International Women’s Day, influential figures urge world leaders to act on promises to end extreme poverty faster by investing in girls and women.

New analysis in ONE’s 2016 Poverty is Sexist report ranks the toughest countries in which to be born a girl, with Niger topping the list. Compared to their brothers, girls here have less education, lack access to opportunities, such as opening a bank account, and are less likely to get paid work when they grow up.

Poverty and gender inequality go hand-in-hand. In 2016 half a billion women still cannot read, 62 million girls are denied an education and 155 countries still have laws that differentiate between men and women. Yet it is widely accepted that investing in girls and women lifts everyone out of poverty more quickly.

2016 offers two major political opportunities to make a difference for girls and women and to kick start progress towards achieving the end of extreme poverty: the replenishment of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and the Nutrition for Growth Summit.

These are crucial moments for nutrition and health because 40 per cent of women in Africa suffer from anaemia, which results in 20 per cent of maternal deaths – and girls account for 74 per cent of all new HIV infections among adolescents in Africa. Smart investments in the Global Fund and Nutrition for Growth will make significant headway against these diseases, and targeting girls and women will ensure a maximum return on investment.

The ONE Campaign’s Poverty is Sexist report also calls for policies that ensure legal equality for all and increased access to safe and reliable energy, which will particularly benefit girls and women. There must also be concerted efforts to connect everyone to the internet and further ensure that governments, businesses and civil society open up their own data so the public are able to see and account for progress towards achieving the Global Goals indicators.

ONE’s open letter, signed by numerous influential figures, including Amy Poehler, Danai Gurira, Angelique Kidjo, Shonda Rhimes, Jessie J, Colin Farrell and Robert Redford shows the incredible strength of feeling across the global community for leaders to step up for girls and women everywhere.


Eloise Todd, Global Policy Director for the ONE Campaign said:

“ONE’s Poverty is Sexist report shows that the 20 toughest places to be born a girl are also among the poorest places on the planet. Until leaders tackle the injustices that pervade the lives of girls and women and invest in fighting poverty, half of the world’s resources will remain untapped and social and economic progress for everyone will be constrained.

This year governments around the world have the opportunity to step up in historic ways to fund replenishments at the Nutrition for Growth and the Global Fund. Investing in nutrition and health is essential for both women and girls and the fight against extreme poverty.”

Danai Gurira, Actor and Award-Winning Playwright

“Poverty is sexist. We live in a world where women and girls suffer the brunt of extreme poverty and disadvantage, where being born female guarantees you the short end of the stick. Socially, economically, legally – girls and women living in the poorest countries get a raw deal simply because they are born female. Every day, in every corner of the world, they are stopped from reaching their full potential. This is still true in America and in Europe, but it is especially true in the developing world. Each of us has an opportunity and a responsibility to speak out and demand action.”

Shonda Rhimes, Creator and CEO, Shondaland said:
“Think about the world we’d live in if more girls had the chance to grow up to be empowered women. Extreme poverty is choking the potential of generations of young women in the developing world. Poverty is sexist. It hits girls and women harder than it does boys and men, creating a real urgency that world leaders must address. That’s why I’m raising my voice and asking others to do the same.”

Angelique Kidjo, Grammy Award-Winning Artist and Activist said:
“The future of Africa is in the hands of its young women. If they are educated, they will educate their communities. If they are healthy, they will ensure others grow up healthy. If they are empowered, they will change the world. We can break the cycle of poverty, but we have to invest in girls and women to do it.”

Sir Elton John, Founder, The Elton John AIDS Foundation said:
“Three out of every four adolescents in Africa who contract HIV are girls, and on average, women in sub-Saharan Africa who contract HIV will do so five to seven years earlier than men. It’s heart-breaking. Stopping the spread of HIV will mean doing more to protect girls and young women. The Global Fund is doing powerful work helping treat and prevent AIDS and deserves expanded support from world leaders. We have the chance to stop HIV/AIDS in our lifetime, and we need to raise our voices now to make sure it happens.”



The Poverty is Sexist letter:

Dear World Leaders, 

Nowhere on earth do women have as many opportunities as men. Nowhere. 

While the debate around this truth rages everywhere, girls and women living in extreme poverty – those often hit hardest by the injustice of gender inequality – have been left out of the conversation.

This must change. The fight for gender equity is global.

Some 62 million girls are denied the right to education. Half a billion women can’t read. 155 countries still have laws that discriminate against women. 

Last year, you signed up to end extreme poverty, and because poverty is sexist, you promised to tackle the gender inequality that keeps people poor.

This year, there are a series of historic opportunities to test your commitment and to make meaningful progress by delivering:

  • Funding in 2016 at the Nutrition for Growth and Global Fund Summits to help girls and women fight HIV and malnutrition, because it is an outrage that girls account for 74% of all new HIV infections among adolescents in Africa and 40% of women on the continent suffer from anaemia which results in 20% of maternal deaths;
  • Policies which support female economic empowerment: access to electricity, connectivity, education and justice, so girls and women have the right to own property, start a business and decide when and whether to marry;
  • Better data on the girls and women we can’t see, don’t know exist and therefore can’t yet deliver for.

International Women’s Day must be about advancing girls and women everywhere.

The full list of influential names who have signed the open letter as of 5 March 2016 is below:

Ali Hewson, Founder, Edun and Nude

Alyse Nelson, President & CEO, Vital Voices Global Partnership

Aminatou Sow, Digital Strategist, Co-Host, Call Your Girlfriend podcast

Amy Poehler, Producer, Actor and Co-Founder of Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls

Andrew Zimmern, Chef

Andrew Hozier-Byrne, Musician

Angelique Kidjo, Grammy Award-Winning Artist and Activist

Ann Friedman, Columnist, New York Magazine, Co-Host, Call Your Girlfriend podcast

Anna Loos, Actress

Anne V, Model

Anne-Marie Slaughter, President & CEO, New America

Arianna Huffington, Co-Founder, President and Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post Media Group

Arielle T, Singer and Activist

Asa, Singer, Songwriter and Musician

Ashley Judd            

Bobby Shriver, Co-Founder, ONE and (RED)

Bono, Lead singer, U2 and Co-Founder of ONE and (RED)

Caitlin Moran, Journalist, Broadcaster and Author

Carey Lowell, Artist and Actress

Carolin Kebekus, Comedian

Charlize Theron, Founder of Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project and UN Messenger of Peace

Cindi Leive, Editor-in-Chief, Glamour

Colin Farrell, Actor

Condoleezza Rice, Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution, Founding partner of RiceHadleyGates, LLC

Connie Britton, Emmy-Nominated Actress

D’Banj, Singer and Activist

Danai Gurira, Actor and Award-Winning Playwright

Derreck Kayongo, CEO, National Center for Civil and Human Rights

Elsie Kanza, Head of Africa, Member of Executive Committee, Africa World Economic Forum

Sir Elton John, Founder, The Elton John AIDS Foundation

Emma Freud, Writer and Broadcaster

Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director, World Food Programme

Femi Kuti, Musician

Gabriela, African Pop Star

George Stroumboulopoulos, Television and Radio Personality

Helen Clark, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme

Helene Gayle, CEO, McKinsey Social Initiative

Jeff Skoll, Social Entrepreneur, Founder & Chairman of the Skoll Foundation, Participant Media, Skoll Global Threats Fund, and Capricorn Investment Group

Jennifer Lopez, Entertainer, Entrepreneur and UN Advocate for Girls and Women

Jessie J   

John Green, Author and YouTuber

Jude Kelly CBE       

Judith Sephuma, South African Musician, Jazz and Gospel Artist

Kakenya Ntaiya, Founder & President, Kakenya Center for Excellence

Karen Kornbluh, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

Kathy Calvin, President & Chief Executive Officer, United Nations Foundation

Katie Holmes

Katja Iversen, CEO, Women Deliver

Laura Ling, Correspondent, Discovery Digital Networks

Lauren Bush Lauren, CEO & Co-Founder of FEED Projects

Lea DeLaria            

Lilly Singh, Comedian, Writer and YouTuber

Lonnie Ali, Wife of Muhammad Ali and Co-Founder of The Muhammad Ali Center

Luvvie Ajayi, Writer, Digital Strategist and Executive Director, The Red Pump Project

Mabel van Oranje, Initiator & Chair, Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage

Marc Benioff, Chairman & CEO, Salesforce
Maria Shriver, Award-Winning Journalist and Founder of Shriver Media
Marian Salzman, CEO, Havas PR

Mark Ruffalo

Mary J Blige, Artist and Activist

Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Meryl Streep

Michele Sullivan, President, Caterpillar Foundation

Muhammad Ali, 3X World Heavyweight Champion and Global Humanitarian

Oprah Winfrey, Chairman & CEO, Oprah Media Group

Padma Lakshmi, Author and Host of Top Chef

Patricia Arquette, Actor and Activist

Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever

Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women

Rea Garvey, Musician

Robert Redford, Actor, Director and Environmental Activist

Rocky Dawuni, Grammy-Nominated International Music Star and Humanitarian Activist

Ruby Rose, Actress

Sarah Degnan Kambou, President, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)

Sean Parker, President of the Parker Foundation

Selmor Mtukudzi, Zimbabwean Musician

Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, Facebook

Sheryl WuDunn, Co-Author, Half the Sky and A Path Appears

Shonda Rhimes, Creator & CEO, Shondaland

Tété, Singer and Songwriter

Thandie Newton, Actress

Tina Fey, Writer, Actress and Producer

Tina Brown, Founder & CEO, Tina Brown Live Media and Women in the World

Vanessa Mdee, Afro Pop Musician

Victoria Kimani, African Pop Artiste

Yemi Alade, International Award Winner “MAMA AFRICA”

Poverty is Sexist report

  • In 2015 ONE released its first Poverty is Sexist report, pressuring leaders to put girls and women at the heart of key policies and decisions. This year, in its second Poverty is Sexist report ONE is calling for progress on gender in 10 specific and crucial areas, including nutrition, health, connectivity, data and accountability.
  • The Poverty is Sexist report includes new analysis of the situation for girls around the world, ranking countries on some of the biggest determinants of a girl’s chances in life: health, nutrition, education, economic opportunities and participation in decision making. The report can be downloaded here.
  • ONE’s ask for Nutrition for Growth II: Governments must commit historic increases in new and additional funding at the Nutrition for Growth II summit, and must adopt policies to strengthen data, improve accountability and build global leadership on nutrition.
  • ONE’s ask for the Global Fund replenishment: Global Fund contributors must raise at least $13 billion to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria at this year’s replenishment round.
  • ONE commits to working closely with partners to produce a major new accountability exercise around International Women’s Day each year, analysing the progress made for girls and women through the Sustainable Development Goals and calling for action in key areas.

Poverty is Sexist campaign and open letter

  • ONE’s Poverty is Sexist campaign 2016 launches on International Women’s Day and will run throughout the year. ONE will work in close partnership with organisations engaged on thematic issues, and on gender, to make sure that investments targeted towards girls and women deliver the empowerment and equality needed.
  • The Poverty is Sexist campaign invites everyone who cares about gender injustice globally to sign on to the open letter and take action in support of girls and women throughout the year: org/letter