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Unfinished business for the world’s women
April 12, 2015, 12:21 pm

Here are two numbers that could shape the future of a great nation: six and 1.7 trillion. The first is the average number of hours each day that women in India spend performing unpaid labor. The second, in dollars, is the amount India’s gross domestic product (GDP) would increase if women participated in the formal labor force at the same level as men.

Today, using new data and analytical tools, we know more than ever about the contributions of women and girls to security and prosperity around the world, as well as the obstacles that block them.

The evidence is clear that when women and girls have opportunities to participate, economies grow and nations prosper. When you present these data in a way that is accessible and compelling, heads start nodding.

The more people are informed by good data, the more they can make good decisions and ultimately, the more results we will see. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has found that if we close the global gap in workforce participation between men and women, GDP worldwide would grow by nearly 12 percent by 2030.

Although more laws prohibit discrimination against women, implementation and enforcement lag, and cultural norms remain hard to change. Nations need to commit the resources and political will to enforce the laws they have adopted to promote gender equity and act against the obstacles that still persist.

Advances in technology open up unprecedented opportunities for progress. Tools like mobile banking, online training and others can help more women access the services they need to get ahead and share their stories. But we must first close the large gap in mobile and internet connectivity between men and women, especially in rural areas of the developing world.

Leaders in many spheres are starting to recognize that holding back women is not right and is not good for the bottom line either. Twenty years ago, talking about the equality of women and girls was taboo in many places, including China, so pushing boundaries meant making a strong moral case. In 2015, a growing body of data allowed them to do this using evidence as well.

Progress is possible. Just like the words in 1995, our actions in 2015 will echo into the future.

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