Women in Power

Women in Power

Women account for approximately two-thirds of the 1.4 billion people globally who live in extreme poverty, but are being shut out of decision making that has a profound impact on their lives. VSO is campaigning against this injustice.

Women still remain unheard in many parts of the world.

All over the world, women suffer the most from poverty, but have the least say in what is done to tackle it. They account for approximately two-thirds of the 1.4 billion people globally who live in extreme poverty, but are being shut out of decision-making that has a profound impact on their lives and those of their families.

Globally, only 20% of parliamentarians and 15 heads of government are female. Only 20% of local government officials are female. Based on current trends, women will not be equally represented in parliaments until 2060, and will not make up half the world’s leaders until 2118.

Read our stories from across the world about how decision-making power among women ensures their specific needs and interests are promoted and defended.

2015: our chance for change

2015 is an important year for gender equality and international development.  In September all UN Member States met and agreed the post 2015 development framework – the Sustainable Development Goals. VSO has been part of the action/2015 campaign, pressing for a strong post-2015 framework that will have the maximum impact on poverty reduction. 

Our recommendations to all member states included:

  • A strong standalone goal on gender equality and women's rights.
  • A target to increase the participation and influence of women at all levels of decision making in public and political life.
  • Specific indicators that measure the real extent of women's involvement and influence across all decision making structures.

The positive news is that two of these three recommendations have been included in the new agreement. It includes a standalone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment (Goal 5) and a target on women’s participation and influence (Target 5.5):

  • Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • Target 5.5: Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life

The process for developing global indicators is still underway and will be agreed in March 2016. As part of the Gender and Development Network, VSO has helped develop a joint briefing paper (PDF) setting out recommendations on global indicators on women’s participation and leadership at all levels of decision-making. 

Increasing women’s participation in decision-making has the potential to improve the lives of countless men and women living in poverty around the world. This new agreement will not change the world overnight, and women and girls around the world are still suffering from poverty and inequality. However, we need to seize the opportunity that the new goal and target present to drive forward progress on this critical issue and hold governments to account. 

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