This Sunday, activists around the world will celebrate International Women’s Day, recognizing the successes of women around the world. But the world is still a vastly unequal place, according to the United Nations, and there’s much work to be done.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the executive director of UN Women, told The Associated Press that there is not a single country in the world that has achieved gender equality. A girl born today will have to wait 50 years before she’s projected to have an equal chance at running a government. She’ll have to wait 70 years before the pay gap evens out, and she’ll have to wait 81 years before she might have the same chance as a man of being the CEO of a company.
Mlambo-Ngcuka added that violence against women and a lack of women in decision-making roles are “global phenomena” caused by male domination in the world. “Women’s bodies are viewed not as something to respect, but as something that men have the right to control and to abuse,” she told the AP.
Next week, the UN will review the Beijing Platform for Action, a massive blueprint developed in 1995 to lay the groundwork for achieving gender equality around the world. While there has been progress in some areas over the past two decades — mostly in women’s health and girls’ education — much more work remains to be done to reduce and eventually eliminate long-standing gender inequalities, said Mlambo-Ngcuka, pointing to the under-representation of women in politics as an example of their continued marginalization.
Today, there are less than 20 female heads of state and government, and the percentage of women lawmakers has only increased by 11 percent over the past two decades, according to one of several recent U.N. reports on gender equality. “We just don’t have critical mass to say that post-Beijing women have reached a tipping point in their representation,” Mlambo-Ngcuka told AP. She is urging world leaders, universities, and companies to take on the UN’s “He for She” campaign (advocated by Emma Watson, among others) and fight for the equality the world desperately needs.
The UN hopes that by enlisting men to step up, everyone can get an advantage for the future—and make equality a truly global effort. “Let us work together to secure a sustainable future where women and girls, boys and men are equally empowered,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at an International Women’s Day event.