Can Australia Include Women in the G20 Agenda?

Australia, who will host the G20 Summit later this year, is being urged by UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcucka to entrench gender equality in the agenda of the summits, or risk entrenching global inequalities even further.

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Though Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka believes that Australia has the capacity to promote gender issues in the decision-making process at the G20 because of their previous history of “pushing the envelope”, it is questionable whether Australia will be able to accomplish this goal for a few significant reasons. Firstly, because political will and international pressure do not guarantee action and because of international reluctance to promote gender issues on the world stage.

Starting next year, the governments of the G20 group must decide on a set of sustainable development targets and there is no question among women’s groups that gender issues must be afforded their very own stand-alone goal.

2014 has seen several setbacks in the area of women’s rights, such as the abduction of over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls in Chibok and the fatal shooting of six young students in Isla Vista, California by a misogynistic and troubled young man as revenge for sexual rejection. While events such as these have garnered international attention, the girls are still not back and child marriage is still rampant worldwide.

Twitter played a significant role in keeping the Nigerian schoolgirls and Isla Vista in our collective conscious with #BringBackOurGirls and #YesAllWomen, however it has since died down while new issues captivate our attention. Although campaigns on social media helped to raise awareness, it did not translate into policy changes or political promises or direct action on the part of politicians and leaders.

This is not to say that global leaders do not care about gender issues (Michelle Obama posted a #BringBackOurGirls support message, for example), it is rather that such issues are not seen as top priorities to G20 governments.

Further, it is doubtful that international leaders at the G20 will be interested in putting gender issues at the forefront of talks, given the current global political climate. It is likely that World Health, the Ukraine-Russia conflict, ISIS, and the assault on Gaza will dominate talks. That being said, there are a few glimmers of hope: USAID’s Let Girls Learn campaign shows American interest in girls education and Canada led the international effort to put the International Day of the Girl Child on the map.

For now, all eyes are on Australia as they lead the G20 as it sets goals for sustainable development. Let’s hope they can get girls and women on the agenda!

 By Genevieve Hill

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