Empowering women and girls: the smart way to build a better world
“Investing in girls and women unlocks untapped potential, and creates a ripple effect that benefits families, communities and entire nations. It’s 2016: now is the time to turn the conversation from ‘if and why’ to ‘how and now.'” – Katja Iverson, CEO, Women Deliver
This May, people from over 60 countries came together to take part in an important conversation on gender equality – focusing on how solutions and investments in health, rights, gender equality and economic empowerment can yield impressive benefits across the development spectrum. Held in Copenhagen, Denmark, the 4th Women Deliver Conference was the largest gathering on girls’ and women’s health, rights, and well-being in the last decade and one of the first major global conferences following the launch of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The conference brought together an incredible line-up of influencers – from policymakers, to issue experts, to business leaders. Participants not only came from across the world but also across sectors to share their expertise. Despite the distance and diversity in experience, they all shared a common message: Empowering girls and women is not only the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do to build a better world.
(Above image, left to right: AECOM’s Silvia Boscolo, senior project manager; Dina Scippa, gender advisor; Simone Anzboeck, associate director).
This message really resonated with me, causing me to draw strong linkages between central themes at the Women Deliver conference and our own central message at AECOM: Built to deliver a better world. Through the projects that we implement for our clients across the company as a whole, and specifically within our International Development team, we help transform communities, develop economies, drive growth, and most importantly, improve lives. Every day, we deliver new opportunities for clients and communities. We work tirelessly to bridge the gap between what is and what can be.
Through our work, we are helping change the International Development landscape to deliver sustainable, transformative outcomes. It cannot be ignored that gender equality, meaningful participation, and empowerment are critical drivers of inclusive, equitable and sustainable development. Such processes not only facilitate the design and implementation of both development policies and projects, but are also important for men and women to mobilize collectively and to increase their ability to exercise influence over decisions that affect them. In connecting expertise across services, markets, and geographies to deliver transformative outcomes, our approach and commitment to promoting gender equality and socially inclusive practices is fundamentally at the core of what we do.
I was proud to represent AECOM as one of the exhibiting organizations at Women Deliver and was pleased to be able to share success stories about the dynamic International Development programs along with our organization’s commitment to gender equality and social inclusion. The Women Deliver conference created a platform for development practitioners to share really inspiring work going on with women and girls, and we can all appreciate, with good reason, why there should be sustained efforts to focus on their empowerment. Panelists at the conference, both men and women, all agreed that when a woman or girl is empowered, she becomes a catalyst – creating ripples of positive change that lift up everyone around her, including boys and men.
Boys and men need to be equal partners to make strides in empowerment of women and girls, which includes fostering a culture of respect, seeing girls and women as capable and powerful, and overcoming entrenched stereotypes. Overall, if interventions that focus on the empowerment of women and girls can take place early enough, girls can be supported to stay in school longer, delay their first birth, and acquire important skills that can propel them forward in terms of economic empowerment.
We are in a unique moment in history – one we must seize to not just move the needle but to change the landscape for girls and women. The launch of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Women Deliver conference, and other landmark events taking place – like the White House State of Women Conference happening this month – all signal a unique opportunity for all of us to remain committed to making real progress for girls and women. We shouldn’t wait any longer for equality. Now is the time to move with urgency.