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Can we achieve global gender equality by 2030?

Twenty years since the UN announced a major effort to reduce global gender inequality, women and girls today are far from getting equal treatment and participation in society, while violence against females is commonplace. Lakshmi Puri of UN Women joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the findings of a pair of reports looking at the status of women and girls, plus opportunity for further progress.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    It's been two decades since the U.N. first announced a major effort to reduce gender inequality around the world.

    A pair of new reports out today, from the U.N. as well as the Clinton and Gates foundations, assess the progress made since then, but also find too many ways women and girls are far from getting equal treatment and participation. Violence, in fact, is often commonplace. The U.N. report finds life expectancy for women has increased to 73 years on average. At the same time, it found an alarmingly high number: More than one in three women worldwide have experienced domestic or sexual abuse.

    Lakshmi Puri is the deputy executive director of U.N. Women, the group which released the report.

    Ms. Puri, welcome to the NewsHour.

    And I am happy to say I was at that Beijing conference to cover it.

    But, in your report, you say that many of the same barriers that existed 20 years ago still in place today? It's a pretty discouraging report.

  • LAKSHMI PURI, Deputy Executive Director, U.N. Women:

    Absolutely.

    Although we have made progress in primary education, we are still not there on secondary and tertiary and STEM education. Where we are progressing in economic participation of women, particularly in the labor force, but it's still in vulnerable employment, with wage gaps between men and women still persisting.

    In power and decision-making, we have many more women in parliament, 36 countries with more than 30 percent representation and 19 countries with heads of state. But we are still far away from achieving the kind of planet 50/50 that Beijing really dreamt of and set out a blueprint for.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Given the structural and the very difficult challenges you're describing, what makes you think that you can make the kind of progress you say is necessary? Because, across the board, whether it's violence against women, legal inequality, the challenges are daunting.

  • LAKSHMI PURI:

    But, you know, it is also a tremendous time of opportunity, historic opportunity, because, for the first time, even since Beijing, the world is coming together in terms of awareness of the issues. They know what needs to be done.

    They are showing much more political will than ever before. U.N. Women's creation itself was an act of political will. And, in that context, the linking up with the sustainable development goals and with gender goal being identified as a priority for the next 15 years to achieve, I think we are really on an accelerated path to breaking down those barriers and reaching that goal of achieving gender equality and women's empowerment, and that, too, by the expiring date of gender inequality and discrimination and violence by 2030.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Yes, I was struck by that, that you — that was your expiration date for achieving gender equality in 15 years, when it's been so hard to get any further in 20 years. And yet you're optimistic that changes are going to come?

  • LAKSHMI PURI:

    Absolutely.

    And we cannot afford it otherwise. We won't get anywhere on poverty eradication, anywhere on economic growth, anywhere on social development or environmental sustainability without empowering half of humanity. And also, if we go at the present pace, it is going to take us another 81 years. We cannot wait another century. We cannot wait another two millennia that we have already waited.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Just finally, what should ordinary men and women in this country watching this interview think? What can they do? Do they sit back and watch the rest of the world? What is the role of the developing world and the non-developing world in making all this happen?

  • LAKSHMI PURI:

    Well, I think the developed world has a particular responsibility, both in terms of role modeling what should be done.

    And what progress has already been made should be showcased, and how they got where they got there. But, also, the developed world has not really also achieved perfection. And they need to continue, not be complacent, continue to take those special measurers, make that investment in gender equality which is necessary, and not only investment in their own countries, but in the developing world, so that the developing world embraces the agenda with as much enthusiasm as is required for development, because there can be no development without gender equality.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    We thank you very much, Lakshmi Puri, deputy executive director of U.N. Women.

  • LAKSHMI PURI:

    Thank you. Thank you.

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