Gender Equality and Empowerment of All Women And Girls Central to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

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(PRESS RELEASE) Achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls is at the crux of 17 goals in a new development agenda introduced at the United Nations. 

This week the U.N. adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, which replace the Millennium Development Goals and provide a road map to tackle poverty and foster equality and sustainable development in all parts of the world over the next 15 years.

In addition to a stand-alone goal of gender equality and empowerment, world leaders committed to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all, including reducing the global maternal mortality ratio and ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health care and rights by 2030. The goals also aim to end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls and to eliminate child, early and forced marriage.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“This new development agenda makes critical commitments to achieving gender equality and ensuring sexual and reproductive health and rights for millions of women and  girls across the globe.

“Promises alone are never enough to truly make a difference in women’s and girls’ lives. These goals are just one of the first steps necessary to  reduce maternal mortality among marginalized groups, ensure access to the full range of reproductive healthcare services, and to eliminate discrimination and violence for all women and girls.

“Human rights and accountability are essential for realizing the ambitious commitments of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is imperative that states implement meaningful, measurable policies guaranteeing universal access to reproductive health and rights, in order to ensure that women and girls are not left behind.”

Progress under the Millennium Development Goals has been uneven: despite an overall reduction, maternal mortality still claims the lives of 800 women and girls each day, with most of these deaths affecting poor and marginalized women in both the global North and South. Robust, transparent, and participatory accountability mechanisms are essential to ensure sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, particularly for marginalized groups who face disproportionate barriers in demanding formal policy or legal change.

The Center has led some of the most important advances in achieving accountability for reproductive rights worldwide. In 2008, the U.N. Human Rights Committee found in the Center’s case of KL v. Peru that the denial of legal abortion services to an adolescent carrying a non-viable fetus constituted a violation of her rights to privacy and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, among other rights. At the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Center secured a historic victory stemming from the preventable maternal death of a young Afro-Brazilian woman who was denied quality maternal health services—the first time an international human rights body named a maternal death a human rights violation. And at the European Court of Human Rights, the Center called upon Poland to ensure adolescents’ reproductive rights after access to a legal abortion for a rape survivor was repeatedly obstructed.

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