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Women, Youth, And Civil Society


Afghanistan -- Afghan women entrepreneurs show commitment to increase their participation in the Afghanistan’s economic development. (January 22, 2014)

Women, youth, and civil society are fundamental to the post-2015 development agenda at the United Nations.

Women, youth, and civil society are fundamental to the post-2015 development agenda at the United Nations. The U.S. Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council, Ambassador Elizbeth Cousens, said "if we are serious about tackling inequalities and exclusion, and if we are serious about a truly transformative development agenda, we need women, girls, and youth to be at the heart and soul of our work."


There has been considerable progress in creating greater access to education and improving some health outcomes. However, progress has been uneven and women and girls are among those most falling behind. Women make up the majority of young people unable to read or write. They lack equal access to jobs and livelihoods, and they face persistent discrimination and inequality in many areas.

Women and girls continue to face early and forced marriage, health risks from childbirth, under-representation in political decision-making and institutions, and the pervasive scourge of violence. Nearly 1 in 3 women globally are beaten, coerced into sex, or physically abused in some other way.

Investing in women has many development benefits. A child born to a mother who can read and write, for example, is 50 percent more likely to survive past the age of 5. It is crucial that the post-2015 Development Agenda target quality education, increased political participation, and the elimination of sexual based violence, including early and forced marriage.

Today, youth make up more than half the world's population. Yet far too many live in conditions of insecurity, poverty, or vulnerability that limits their prospects. Development goals will need to target their specific needs, including addressing the issue of vocational skills, as upwards of 75 million youth are unemployed globally.

Finally, the bedrock of all these development efforts is civil society. Governments and institutions are stronger when citizens have a voice in public policy debates and decision-making that affects them. "If we care about advancing a shared development agenda," said Ambassador Cousens, "we must continue to press for a safe and open environment for civil society and citizen action."

The United States strongly supports the inclusion in the Post-2015 Development Agenda of women and girls, youth, and the institutions that promote healthy civil society.
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