Most young people believe gender equality will be achieved in their lifetime – survey

A majority of young people believe gender equality will be achieved in their lifetime if powerholders listen and take action now.

A majority of young people (75%) believe gender equality will be achieved in their lifetime if governments and powerholders listen and take action now, according to our new research.

However, the window to do so is fleeting and rapidly running out – with current estimates suggesting it will take 131 years to close the gender gap if progress does not accelerate.

Currently, 85% of countries will fail to achieve gender equality or the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, with many at risk of reversing progress as a result of conflict, climate change and the rise of anti-gender movements.

Girls and young women face inequality

Worldwide, girls and young women still suffer significant inequalities, and experience extreme poverty at higher rates and are more than twice as likely than young men to be out of education, employment, or training.

Gender-based violence remains pervasive and across the globe, millions of girls remain at risk of child, early, and forced marriage and unions.

Despite this, out of more than 100 young people surveyed by Plan International, 78% believe that the world will be more gender equal in 2053 compared to today.

Nearly all – 90% – believe that young people, rather than governments, will be the driving force in achieving this. Youth who took part in the survey expressed frustration with their governments’ actions to promote gender equality, and saw it as critical to include young people in decision making.

In the words of Elizabeth, 18, from Sub-Saharan Africa, “Gender equality is not only a moral imperative but also an investment in the prosperity, stability, and overall well-being of societies. Policies that prioritise and advance gender equality contribute to a more just, equitable, and sustainable future for everyone.”

Furaha, 16, adds: “What I speak today will impact tomorrow, for my future begins with my voice today. Please, listen to our voices as young people, for the decisions you make today will impact our lives tomorrow.”

Girls must take the lead

Advances in girls’ education and political leadership, as well as more prioritisation of gender equality campaigns and programmes were cited as reasons young people feel optimistic about the future of gender equality.

Since 2015, the number of girls enrolled in school globally has increased by 50 million, and there are also five million more girls completing each level of education from primary to upper secondary education.

Women are now Heads of State or Government in 31 countries around the world. An overwhelming majority of girls and young women are also politically engaged, with a survey of 29,000 girls and young women carried out by Plan International in 2022 finding that 97% see it as important to participate in politics.

Ahead of the UN’s Summit of the Future, which takes place in September 2024, Plan International warns that a crucial window is coming up to secure gender equality for future generations.

Girls have hope for gender equality

Kathleen Sherwin, Chief Strategy and Engagement Officer for Plan International says: “Huge progress has been made towards achieving gender equality and young people remain optimistic that this will happen. At the same time, there are many threats and risk which could reverse these hard-won gains – we are at a crossroads to create the future we want.

“At the current rate of progress, it will take more than a century to achieve gender equality. We think this is far too long, but there’s also a real risk that climate change, conflict and the growing strength of anti-rights groups could set this back even more.

“At the same time, every day, we see reasons to be hopeful. Today, there are more girls completing school than ever before and more women serving as head of states or government. Together, we can accelerate progress – and the Summit of the Future presents a once in a generation opportunity to do so, provided adolescent girls and youth are at the centre of discussions.”

Ahead of the Summit of the Future – which will deliver a Pact for the Future – Plan International has worked with youth to co-create a Girls’ Pact, setting out girls’ visions for a positive future with gender equality at its heart.

Plan International also calls for policymakers to include adolescent girls and youth in decision-making processes at all levels in a meaningful, inclusive and empowering way, and to continue investing in adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights and girls’ education at all levels, particularly in gender-transformative and comprehensive sexuality education and digital skills.

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