NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The world has made strides in advancing equality for women, but the pace of change remains too slow in many areas, Hillary Clinton said, pressing the need to improve girls’ education.
“Based on where we were 20 years ago, we’ve made a lot of progress, but in terms of economic participation, political participation and peace and security we haven’t made as much, said the former U.S. Secretary of State.
Clinton spoke on Wednesday at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in a session highlighting projections indicating that women will not comprise half of the world’s elected representatives until 2065 or half its leaders until 2134.
Clinton, widely seen as a potential contender for the U.S. presidency in 2016, said a key obstacle to women’s equality is a lack of parity in education.
“We know when girls have equal opportunities to primary and secondary school, cycles of poverty are broken, economies grow, glass ceilings are cracked and potential unleashed,” she said at CGI, an annual forum for world leaders to discuss solutions to local and international problems.
She announced the launch of an initiative by the Center on Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, called the Collaborative for Harnessing Ambition and Resources for Girls’ Education (CHARGE).
More than 30 CHARGE partners pledged nearly $600 million over the next five years to benefit 14 million girls, keep them enrolled, ensure school safety, improve the quality of education, and help them transition from school to work or higher education.
At the session, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described the obstacles to women’s economic empowerment in his country and his solutions.
Abe put forth a “womenomics” strategy last year to bolster the economy in a country with an aging and shrinking population, where women are highly educated but comprise only 63 percent of the workforce, primarily in low-level jobs.
To encourage women to join and stay in the workforce, Abe has promised to provide daycare for 200,000 children, 100,000 of whom are currently served.
In a country long uncomfortable with workers from abroad, he has encouraged bringing in more foreigners to care for children and the elderly, freeing women to work outside the home.
He is also working to change the Japanese workplace culture that promotes only those who toil extremely long hours, which conflicts with women’s family responsibilities and defies work-life balance for women and men alike.
Similarly in the United States, the lack of affordable, quality childcare and mandatory paid maternity leave discourage many women from working outside the home, Clinton said.
Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, added that women around the world are also limited by the amount of unpaid labor they provide.
“We need to redesign the way we collect the data today,” she said, noting that most household economic surveys do not measure women’s unpaid labor at home or money made in the informal economy.
What is known, Gates said, is that providing women with education and economic opportunities benefits not just their families, but also their communities and national economies.
Reporting by Lisa Anderson, Editing by