Fighting poverty means fighting sexism

President and CEO, The ONE Campaign

Nowhere in the world do women have as many opportunities as men, whether those opportunities are economic, social or political. If we’re going to make our commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) count, we have to start here.

When the SDGs were adopted by the United Nations in September last year, it was plain that 2015 was a key year for development. But now it’s time to put the plan into action. One of the most important promises of the goals is the pledge of equity to 50% of the world’s population–women.  

To start with, that means more and better data. World leaders cannot pledge to “leave no one behind” if we don’t know where everyone is and how they live. On International Women’s Day, ONE released its second “Poverty Is Sexist” report, including an index of the 20 toughest places in which to be born a girl–with Niger, Somalia and Mali topping the list. The index was based on recent data, which had 80% coverage across all countries. Yet even so, some 30 countries couldn’t be included because of incomplete information. We’re facing a sexist data crisis–we must have gender disaggregated data in order to know where and how women and girls are being left behind.

Two areas where we know they are being left behind involve health and nutrition. Over a woman’s life the lack of nutrition and provisions against diseases create a vicious cycle, which feeds down from mother to child. Too many children are born into the world without full and robust health; they are left behind in the race for a prosperous and flourishing life before it has even started. But if all pregnant women had access to all the nutrition they needed, over 800,000 infant deaths could be averted every year and millions more would live better lives–as would their mothers, of course.

Poor nutrition in early childhood is not the only threat that children face. Even if a girl makes it past her fifth birthday, she’ll still be threatened time and time again by preventable diseases. In South Africa alone more than 800 girls aged 15-19 are infected with HIV every week. That’s why, in 2016, ONE is championing health and nutrition for women and girls. Access to health care and proper nutrients is vital, and we must tackle the obstacles to getting these, such as finance, cultural attitudes and distance.

Making headway against preventable diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria will take gender-specific and smart financial investments. It’s vital to encourage African governments to use their own domestic budgets to fund such programmes, and to tackle the corruption that can cripple health services. But international donors still have a role to play. Over the next 15 years, while the development sector adopts new campaigns and uses new technology, we mustn’t forget what works. And The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria is one of the institutions that really does. The fund is on track to have saved 22 million lives by the end of 2016, an extraordinary amount of human potential that would have otherwise been lost.

To protect girls and women from these three deadly diseases, we need world leaders to strengthen their support for the Global Fund–some 60% of its investments specifically support girls and women. That’s why a successful Global Fund replenishment this year will be one of the first real tests of the Global Goals.

Of course, no single organisation–no single intervention–can ensure that the SDGs are achieved. But if we work together, we can see an end to poverty, gender inequality and preventable diseases by 2030. That is an inspiring challenge for civil society, governments and business to work towards–together. At ONE, we are all in. Join us.



Black, Robert al (2013),“Maternal and child undernutrition and overweight in low-income and middle-income countries”, The Lancet, Elsevier Ltd 

Lake, Anthony and Michael Sidibé (2015), “To End the AIDS Epidemic, Start Focusing on Adolescents”,

Global Fund, The (2015), “The Link Between HIV and Violence Against Women”, 

ONE (2016), Poverty Is Sexist 2016, 

Closing the gender gap at the OECD Forum 2016

International collaboration at the OECD Forum 2016

Other OECD Forum 2016 issues

OECD and the Sustainable Development Goals

OECD work on gender

OECD work on health

OECD Observer website

OECD Yearbook 2016

© OECD Yearbook 2016

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q4 2017 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% Dec 2017 annual
Trade: +4.3% exp, +4.3% imp, Q3 2017
Unemployment: 5.5% Dec 2017
Last update: 23 Feb 2018


Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly

Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Ambassador Aleksander Surdej, Permanent Representative of Poland to the OECD, was a guest on France 24’s English-language show “The Debate”, where he discussed French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
  • The fight against tax evasion is gaining further momentum as Barbados, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Malaysia, Panama and Tunisia signed the BEPS Multilateral Convention on 24 January, bringing the total number of signatories to 78. The Convention strengthens existing tax treaties and reduces opportunities for tax avoidance by multinational enterprises.
  • Rousseau
  • Do you trust your government? The OECD’s How's life 2017 report finds that only 38% of people in OECD countries trust their government. How can we improve our old "Social contract?" Read more.
  • Papers show “past coming back to haunt us”: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria tells Sky News that the so-called "Paradise Papers" show a past coming back to haunt us, but one which is now being dismantled. Please watch the video.
  • When someone asks me to describe an ideal girl, in my head, she is a person who is physically and mentally independent, brave to speak her mind, treated with respect just like she treats others, and inspiring to herself and others. But I know that the reality is still so much different. By Alda, 18, on International Day of the Girl. Read more.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Read some of the insightful remarks made at OECD Forum 2017, held on 6-7 June. OECD Forum kick-started events with a focus on inclusive growth, digitalisation, and trust, under the overall theme of Bridging Divides.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2018