Spreading the word at Davos: Poverty is Sexist

Spreading the word at Davos: Poverty is Sexist


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“I come to Davos because there’s a lot of people who can help and there’s a lot of people who can get in your way…”

ONE’s co-founder, Bono, couldn’t have put it better during his interview from the snows at Davos. As someone who campaigns on poverty and gender issues, there is a Faustian element to showing up in Switzerland—this year, the World Economic Forum in Davos only increased its female participation by a measly 1 percent, up to a paltry 18 percent. At this rate we will be looking at another 32 years before we get to gender parity. That’s way too long for me. We must solve the Davos diversity deficit sooner, because as Sheryl Sandberg put it: “Men still run the world—and it’s not going that well.”

The World Economics Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 22, 2016. (DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Clydell Kinchen)

The World Economics Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 22, 2016. (DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Clydell Kinchen)

That being said, if you really want to change the status quo, it’s pretty tough to do it from the outside alone… and so, last week, much to the chagrin of my anti-establishment parents, we held our second Davos meeting on prioritizing girls and women in the fight against extreme poverty on Thursday, January 21.

Last year, some of the world’s best advocates helped shape our Poverty is Sexist campaign. This year, with the new Global Goals in play, it was time to get down to business: How can we measure progress in the short and long term? What are the political opportunities in 2016? And how can we communicate these issues to even more potential activists?


The thing I love most about working for ONE is the belief that everyone has a role to play and that bringing together people from across sectors creates greater momentum. That’s how we ended up with Christine Lagarde, John Green, Bono, Arianna Huffington, Justine Greening, and Melinda Gates—among others—in a room together in the Swiss Alps. These were my big takeaways:

The data problem continues

In the last year, there has been progress—greater awareness and a number of big initiatives. But it is going to take much better coordination to begin to resolve this gargantuan problem. Melinda Gates publicly and behind the scenes pushed last week to get key data groups together to close the data gaps and increase the frequency of data collection and if there is one person I believe can cut through this challenge, it is her.

Business policy must be a driver of change

Companies can and must lead by example in this fight! They can leapfrog a lack of good government policy on gender by instituting their own throughout huge supply chains, north and south. Emma Watson and HeforShe demonstrated this potential last week when they brought ten corporate leaders together to publish gender data—a brave move given the great inequities it revealed. This discussion has already informed our plans to do much more in this area, and perhaps even provide a report of the good, the bad, and the ugly…


Speaking of HeforShe—unlike the World Economic Forum—there are not enough men at this party. Period.

Focus our efforts

We cannot achieve everything at once—we have to be ruthless about identifying the change opportunities. My colleague at ONE, Tom Hart, defines these as “real political moments with real decision makers,” and he’s not wrong. We have to go where the opportunity and political energy exists and climb this mountain one step at a time.

This year, there is a perfect storm gathering around nutrition (an issue the world is still unbelievably underinvested in) and AIDS, with major political moments on each. Both issues disproportionately affect females, particularly adolescent girls. For example, in the last year 60 percent of new HIV infections among people aged 15-24 were among women and girls. So we must to make progress in these moments and find a way of charting these advances, or indeed the lack of them, against the new Sustainable Development Goals.

International Women’s Day should be even bigger

March 8 can and should be a major cultural moment—and it is for those of us that work on these issues day in, day out. But we need to stretch beyond the usual suspects to bring more people in, including the feminist movements in Europe and North America that understandably can be more focused on domestic issues.

At ONE, alongside partners, we are planning a major push on International Women’s Day, so mark your calendars and let’s get greater justice for women and girls. We won’t end extreme poverty without this.

Poverty is Sexist: Tell world leaders to act now and help girls and women reach their full potential!


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