Why Bother Investing In Women And Girls?

18 October 2019

We are off-track to deliver the SDGs. Developing countries need at least an additional $2.5 trillion every year to finance them. Unsurprisingly the poorest people in the world – and especially those living in conflicts – are the most left behind. And women and girls even more so. We know that investing in women and girls delivers results – for women and their children, for local and national communities and for companies’ balance sheets. Women and girls have the potential to be the force multiplier to achieve the SDGs – yet the international community doesn’t invest nearly enough in them. Despite our rhetoric and commitments, a mere 4% of the $150 billion Official Development Assistance (ODA) spend is dedicated to programmes tackling gender inequality, and only 34% of ODA mainstreams gender equality.

We need to bother to invest in women and girls because:

  1. When girls go to school they tend to be healthier, to participate more in formal labour markets, to earn higher incomes, to have fewer children, to marry at a later age, and to provide better health care and education for their children. Taken together, these factors can help lift households, communities and nations out of poverty. But 63 million girls still don’t have access to school.  Where there’s conflict, girls are 2.5 times more likely not to be in school than boys.
  2. When women control their sexual and reproductive rights they are more likely to stay in school, unintended pregnancies drop by as much as 70%, maternal deaths by 67% and newborn deaths by 77%. But a third of girls in developing countries are married before 18, some at the onset of puberty. This leads to early pregnancy, heightened risks in childbirth, multiple births and closes the door to education and well-paid work.
  3. When women can do well-paid work not only do companies’ financial performance improve, but women reinvest a much higher portion of their income in their families and communities than men, spreading wealth much further. If women participated in labour markets on the same terms as men, it would add as much as $28 trillion (26%) to global annual GDP by 2025.  Despite this, on current trajectories, it will take 170 years to close the global gender pay gap.
  4. When women are safe, they are more likely to stay in education and be able to increase their ability to earn. Across the world, a third of women are beaten or sexually abused in their lifetime. 71% of the estimated 40.3 million people in modern slavery – including forced marriage- are girls and women. Ending child marriage alone could generate more than $500 billion in benefits annually each year.

We know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to investing in women and girls. OECD DAC Members are increasingly aware that focussing on women can make ODA more effective. Several DAC members have developed strategies to put gender at the heart of policymaking and programme delivery. The amount of ODA that has gender equality as a consideration is increasing, but more needs to be done given the transformative power of such investments.

Girl standing proudly  in front of a street in her village.

My role is to influence and encourage donors to scale up, share best practice, champion women and girls’ rights wherever and whenever possible. We also hold each other to account in the DAC- via our Peer Review process- to deliver on commitments to gender equality.

My role is to influence and encourage donors to scale up, share best practice, champion women and girls’ rights wherever and whenever possible.  

The DAC has an important role to play in providing data and evidence, and in shaping policymaking and setting standards. The DAC has responded swiftly and categorically to evidence of sexual abuse in the development sector by adopting the first international legal standard to prevent sexual abuse, exploitation and harassment in the development sector. It commits donors to strengthen existing local services and networks with gender-based violence and child-protection services specifically to address violence against girls. We will be monitoring implementation closely.

We will not deliver the SDGs without gender equality. When over half the world’s population is unable to achieve her potential, is blocked from being productive, and is largely being ignored or undermined, there is no sustainable route to development.

  • Attorney, Person, Human
    Susanna Moorehead

    Chair of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC)

Girls Get Equal, Sexual and reproductive health and rights, Skills and work, Youth empowerment, Activism