VSO calls on world leaders to raise women’s voices in international negotiations this March

VSO calls on world leaders to raise women’s voices in international negotiations this March

International Women’s Day, March 8th, 2015

VSO is calling on governments to increase women’s participation and influence in decision-making. Negotiations around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), will shape the development agenda for the next fifteen years are entering a crucial phase in March. VSO is calling for a clear target and indicators on increasing women’s participation and influence to be included under a standalone goal on gender equality and women’s rights.

VSO has worked with women in 90 countries over 55 years, and observed first-hand the barriers that exclude women from playing an equal role all levels of political and public life. While some progress has been made in the last 15 years to address gender inequality and the number of women in politics, it has been too slow. Globally, women continue to be marginalised within decision-making institutions from the local to international level. Advances in equality are yet to translate into genuine and sustained improvements in the lives of women.

“Across the world, from villages to cabinet tables, women are locked out of the decisions which affect their lives. VSO’s research shows that it will take until 2118 for women have equal influence as world leaders. We need a target in the new Sustainable Development Goals to increase women’s participation and influence in public and political life”, said Angela Salt, UK Director, VSO.

Only 20% of parliamentarians globally are female. Former Kenyan Minister and a current MP, Hon. Esther Murugi Mathenge, is one such woman. The mother of two was the only female politician in her county when she was first elected. During two terms in office, she’s been able to implement some real changes in her constituency of Nyeri. She has supported the building of 11 new health facilities, each within walking distance of their community, fixed ongoing water supply problems, improved education prospects for girls and set up a Cash Transfer for the Elderly programme , a scheme which has since been rolled out across Kenya and to ensure income security in old age in Kenya.

“When you talk about clean drinking water, it is the women who are calling for look for it. They are the ones who need health centres. We will continue to campaign to ensure that governments build these throughout the country,” said Hon. Esther Murugi Mathenge this week.
She was speaking at a Women in Power event at the Irish Embassy in London on March 3rd , which was attended by International Ambassadors and Baroness Northover, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development in the UK. The event was being hosted on behalf of VSO and UN Women’s UK National Committee by the governments of Ireland and Kenya, appointed to lead the negotiations at the UN around the Post 2015 framework.

In Asia, VSO research from India supports the call for increased participation by women. It shows how having women elected to local government is slowly translating into political gains. Gradually, many of the women elected in rural Odisha are gaining the confidence to challenge the male figures in their families and community. Crucially, they are finding forums where they can raise the issues that concern them like infant disease and mortality, malaria, malnourishment, the incidence of STDs among tribal youth and the hidden phenomenon of trafficking of women and children.

VSO is marking International Women’s Day this year through events and local actions with partner organisations in several countries including; India, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Kenya, and Bangladesh.


For further information or to book an interview with a VSO spokesperson please contact:  
VSO Press Office press@vso.co.uk Tel: +44 (0) 20 8780 7640 and +44 (0) 7500 918 478.

For more information on VSO and the Post 2015 process

Editor's notes

VSO is the world’s leading independent international development organisation that works through volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries. VSO's high-impact approach involves bringing people together to share skills, build capabilities, promote international understanding and action, and change lives to make the world a fairer place for all.  

Women are estimated to account for two thirds of the 1.4 billion people globally who live in extreme poverty.  

Women perform two thirds of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food, but earn only 10% of the income and own 1% of the property  

VSO is calling on the UN for a new Sustainable Development Goals framework to include;

  • A strong standalone goal on gender equality and the human rights of women and girls, and the mainstreaming of gender equality across all other goals.
  • A target to ensure women’s full, equal and effective participation and influence at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life, including in leadership positions.
  • Indicators that go beyond participation at a national parliamentary level and instead measure women’s influence over decision making at all levels.