#HeForShe: Eliminating Gender Inequality to Foster a More Sustainable World

Summary

As we know, equal rights and decision-sharing between men and women are crucial to sustainable development. Studies have continuously shown that wherever women are given positions of responsibility within their communities or at their companies, they act as a dynamic force that drives change. To speed up this movement, long restricted to the feminist struggle, the United Nations has launched HeForShe, a viral campaign designed to mobilize its male partners for an ambitious project: helping them to achieve this equality for our own generation.

08Mar.
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“Equality is a job for everyone, because equality doesn’t just free women, it frees us all.”
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women

“It’s not our gender that defines us, but ultimately it’s our shared humanity”
Elizabeth Nyamayaro, Head of the HeForShe initiative

“I believe that gender equality, ending violence against women and girls, and the empowerment of women are key to sustainable social, political and economic development for my country.”
Arthur Peter Mutharika, President of the Malawi Republic

Equality is not a women’s issue: it is a human rights issue

It is discouraging to see that, in 2016, women are still largely absent from political and economic decision-making centers. Many of them continue to fight for equal pay, access to education and, in some parts of the world, the right to vote and the most basic safety measures. According to Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, and Elizabeth Nyamayaro, the campaign’s director, the time has come for a societal movement that goes beyond gender stereotypes and smooths the divides caused by sometimes overly-militant feminism. Launched in 2014, the HeForShe campaign is based on a powerful assertion: equality is not a is not only a women’s issue, but a human rights issue that requires the participation and commitment of men men who want to live in a fairer world.

A challenge for a generation

The campaign’s goal is to mobilize one billion brothers, sons, husbands, male teachers, company directors and political representatives all over the world and encourage them to become partners in this change. To launch its appeal, HeForShe chose a young woman with magical charisma: an ambassador for Generation Y, Emma Watson. In the video of her opening speech, viewed by 1.3 million people, Emma talked about the urgency of the situation: “If we do nothing”, she told us, “it will take 75 years before women can expect to be paid the same as men for the same work. 15.5 million girls will be married in the next 16 years as children. And, at current rates, it won’t be until 2086 before all rural African girls can have secondary education.”

“Are you ready to change the world?”

After two years of intensive campaigning, HeForShe has generated 1.3 billion conversations on the web, 676,000 commitments on its site, and 1,100 events throughout the world. The movement continues to use all of the levers of the social Internet to recruit its ambassadors and encourage them to move from passive awareness to effective action. On its website, hundreds of thousands have taken a stand, as witnessed by a list of statutes and projects that have improved the situation of women in their communities. Here, the father of a family in Zimbabwe says he has created a “school for husbands” to teach the men of his village to respect their wives; there, a young Indian tells us how he has organized a huge co-ed bike race with girls from his neighborhood. Every initiative counts and, as a guide, HeForShe has devised action kits that can be downloaded here.

Mobilizing world leaders 

At the end of the year, HeForShe launched Impact, a program bringing leaders together from the political, economic and academic worlds, who are resolved to take action at the highest level of the movement. These figures include heads of State and prime ministers, executives of top companies like Twitter, Vodafone and Accor Hotels, and presidents of prominent universities such as Andrew Hamilton, the Vice Chancellor of Oxford, and Frédéric Mion, the President of Sciences Po. The list of their commitments is too long to cite here. However, we can mention a few significant initiatives: that of Arthur Peter Mutharika, the President of Malawi, with his Marriage Act, which aims to prohibit the marriage of girls under 18 by 2020 1; that of Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, who has undertaken to raise the proportion of women in the executive committees of his country’s leading companies to 40% by the time he leaves office, and that of Sébastien Bazin, CEO of Accor Hotels, who has announced his intention to guarantee wage equality for his employees in France, Spain and Brazil by 2020. With the approach of International Women’s Day on March 8, numerous other actions are eagerly awaited.

1 Today, 50% of girls in Malawi are under-age when they marry.

Keep up with the HeForShe movement on the official website, Facebook and Twitter.

Photo © HeForShe