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poverty is sexist, ONE, letter, time for changeNowhere on earth do women have as many opportunities as men. Nowhere.

Last year ONE, a campaigning and advocacy organisation taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, released its first “Poverty is Sexist” report, aimed at pressuring leaders to put girls and women at the heart of key policies and decisions.

The report demonstrated:

1. That poverty and gender inequality go hand-in-hand.

Being born in a poor country and being born female amount to a double whammy for girls and women: they are significantly worse off than their counterparts in richer countries, and in every sphere they are hit harder by poverty than men.

2. Investments targeted towards girls and women pay dividends in lifting everyone out of poverty more quickly, and are essential in the overall fight to end extreme poverty everywhere.

The biggest determinants of a girl’s chances in life include her health, nutrition, education, economic opportunities and participation in decision-making.

And so – clearly – until leaders tackle the injustices that pervade the lives of girls and women, and until policies and funding unlock the potential of women, half of the world’s resources will remain untapped and progress — both social and economic — will be constrained.

“Business as usual” is – clearly – not good enough.

2016 is the year we start to hold leaders accountable for the SDGs they signed up for. For health and nutrition, the moments to act are this year.

Things have to change.

Leaders must not be allowed to decide transformational agendas one year and then return to their old ways the next.

One way of helping change this is to join the (to date) 206,191 others – among them Angelique Kidjo; Bono; Sir Elton John; Emma Watson; Jennifer Lopez; Jessie J; Lady Gaga; Laura Ling; Lilly Singh; Maria Shriver; Mark Ruffalo; Mary J Blige; Meryl Streep; Michele Sullivan; Padma Lakshmi; Patricia Arquette; Robert Redford; Ruby Rose; Samantha Bee; Sheryl Sandberg; Shonda Rhimes; Sue Desmond-Hellmann; Susan Wojcicki; and Tina Fey who have signed this letter:

Dear World Leaders,

Nowhere on earth do women have as many opportunities as men. Nowhere.

While the debate around this truth rages everywhere, girls and women living in extreme poverty – those often hit hardest by the injustice of gender inequality – have been left out of the conversation.

This must change. The fight for gender equity is global.

Some 62 million girls are denied the right to education. Half a billion women can’t read. 155 countries still have laws that discriminate against women.

Last year, you signed up to end extreme poverty, and because poverty is sexist, you promised to tackle the gender inequality that keeps people poor.

This year, there are a series of historic opportunities to test your commitment and to make meaningful progress by delivering:

Funding in 2016 at the Nutrition for Growth and Global Fund Summits to help girls and women fight HIV and malnutrition, because it is an outrage that girls account for 74 per cent of all new HIV infections among adolescents in Africa and 40 per cent of women on the continent suffer from anaemia which results in 20 per cent of maternal deaths;

Policies which support female economic empowerment: access to electricity, connectivity, education and justice, so girls and women have the right to own property, start a business and decide when and whether to marry;

Better data on the girls and women we can’t see, don’t know exist and therefore can’t yet deliver for.

International Women’s Day must be about advancing girls and women everywhere.

To sign the letter, click here.

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