UNITED NATIONS (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - From real-life princesses to Hollywood royalty, women took the spotlight like never before this week at the United Nations where world leaders met to measure progress on global goals to end poverty and inequality.
The meeting of global movers and shakers topped off a recent surge of attention on gender, sexual violence and equal rights, raising the profile of efforts to boost female participation around the world, observers said.
Crown Princess Mary of Denmark took to a U.N. podium to talk about the rights of refugee and migrant women and girls, while Princess Mabel van Oranje of the Netherlands was promoting an end to child marriage.
Protection of migrants and eradication of child marriage are among the global goals adopted unanimously by U.N. member nations three years ago. The set of 17 goals aims to end such woes as poverty, conflict and inequality by 2030.
“I do think gender equality is a rising force,” said Julia Gillard, former prime minister of Australia who now heads the Global Partnership for Education to promote schooling for girls.
“Evidence is now very clearly showing us that educating girls and empowering women is pivotal to achieving so many of the global goals,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Queen Rania of Jordan made a public plea for Arab women, who she said were struggling amid civil war and violence, and underlined the role women play stemming conflict and violence.
“Arab women are digging deep to hold their families together in the most testing conditions,” she told a HeForShe summit in a packed New York City venue. “But in this instability we have seen strides in health and education.”
And, she told the crowd: “Empowerment is contagious.”
Queen Maxima of the Netherlands advocated for inclusive finance for development as did Ivanka Trump, daughter of and advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump.
“We know that investing in women is a priority in terms of our global security, global prosperity, and peace,” the president’s daughter told a meeting of the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative. “Women are one of the greatest untapped resources.”
The heightened role for women comes after millions have marched in the streets around the world and the birth of such widespread movements as #MeToo and Times Up, which tackle sexual violence, and She Decides, which supports reproductive rights.
In the United States, record numbers of women are running for political office, and accusations by women of sexual misconduct threaten lawmakers’ approval of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
“The issues are more on the agenda,” Katja Iversen, head of Women Deliver, a gender-equality advocacy group, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“It’s becoming an imperative for companies and for governments because of the #MeToo movement and Times Up and She Decides but also because of the evidence that shows that both societies and economies fare so much better if there are more women involved,” Iversen said.
She cited a report showing the full equality of women and men in labor markets could add as much as $28 trillion - 26 percent - to global gross domestic product by 2025.
“Who would throw away double-digit growth numbers that could come with more gender equal workplaces?” Iversen said.
Among those promoting gender equality amid the world leaders’ meetings was Hollywood actress Anne Hathaway, while actress Kristen Bell played a role as a humanitarian advocate.
Mexican actress Cecilia Suarez was set to join the European Union and the U.N.’s announcement of a $50 million Euro ($59 million U.S.) investment to end femicide in Latin America.
YouTube celebrity Lilly Singh put her star power to work to promote a U.N. children’s agency UNICEF event, while models Jillian Mercado and Mari Malek and Venezuelan actress Eglantina Zingg were slated to pitch in for an array of social causes.
Meanwhile, the British government and information and technology company Bloomberg L.P. announced a partnership to improve reporting on gender equality in the workplace.
“Gender equality is not just a moral imperative, it is good business,” said Britain’s Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt.
Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org