Want equality? Be patient, girls. We need centuries.

Lina AbiRafeh
4 min readOct 20, 2022

In 2015, we were told that we’d achieve equality by 2030 — or so said the UN in its Sustainable Development Goals. A plan was drawn up, and countries were told to get their houses in order. Every year we get an update on how we’re doing.

And this year, just eight years shy of our supposed finish line, we’re told that we’re a long way off. Centuries, in fact.

We’re getting used to empty promises. And we’re getting used to being sidelined, being told that this isn’t “our time,” that we should “be patient.” Well, I for one have never been a patient person. And certainly NOT NOW.

Where did I get this depressing info from?!

It seems we were never on track to reach global gender equality by 2030, in fact, the data estimates that we might not reach this goal until 2108! I don’t expect most of us will be around to see it.

Meanwhile, we keep churning out documents reminding us why we need to empower women and girls. Why do we need reminding?

The UN’s 2022 Gender Snapshot gave us a few bleak blips — most of which we’ve been saying for decades. What the Snapshot adds to our understanding is this: things are getting worse.

Firstly, women and girls are the majority of the world’s poor — over 380 million women and girls are in poverty.

Women are discriminated against by law. In 104 countries, laws still exist that restrict the type of work women can do — for example needing permission from their husbands before pursuing a new job. And it’ll take another 286 years to close the gaps in legal protection for women.

Women represent only 26% of some 35,500 parliament seats and just 23% of over 3,400 ministers worldwide. Certainly, not all power is politics — but these are visible positions. Here, in political life, inequality is most visible because women are rendered virtually invisible.

In the economy, women continue to be exploited, underpaid, or not paid at all. The wage gap is real — with women earning 83 cents to every man’s dollar. If the pay gap were to close, the world’s GDP could grow by $12 trillion by 2025.

I could go on. You’ve heard me say this before. But it’s worth repeating, lest we become complacent. This is not how things were supposed to go!

The bottom line is that achieving equality for women is not just inaccessible — it’s impossible.

Do I need to explain why equality is important? It would be rather baffling if this wasn’t obvious to absolutely everyone. Equality is a right. It is non-negotiable. It is not up for interpretation. It applies to everyone. Yup — everyone. Living humans — all of us.

And who would argue against this?! The truth is that without gender equality, we’ve got zero hope for a safe, just, sustainable future. In short — we’re screwed.

The reality is that no country in the world has achieved equality. Not a single one. I’m not making this up. Global statistics show that the gender gap is increasing.

In 2020, we learned that it would take 100 years to close the gender gap. In 2021, this number grew to 136, and in 2022 it decreased to 132 years. A micro-decrease. But still, this means that another generation of women and girls will have to wait for gender equality. And this means that none of us reading (or writing) this blog right now will actually live to see it. That’s not something I’m willing to accept.

As long as we keep moving backwards, we are leaving more and more women and girls behind.

So, why are we still talking about this? Shouldn’t we all be really angry — and do something?

I recently spoke at an event talking about, yes, women and girls:

We say we leave no one behind. But we are leaving women and girls behind.

I say this as an activist, an academic, an author, a former aid worker, and generally, as somebody who thinks the world should be doing better. IIt’s a non-negotiable imperative because truly, there is nothing more important than this. It is existential — and the lives of women and girls are at stake.

Patriarchy is everywhere. Women’s rights have been fully achieved nowhere, in no single country. Even as I sit here in the US. The gender gap is widening. 132 years! A new generation that is not going to have the kind of equality that they deserve — no rights, dignity, respect. We’re all words, we should not sit here talking about these things all the time, we should be actioning them — actively. And ending them — finally.

What can you do? Here are 5 quick things:

  1. Start where you stand. There’s so much you can do right where you are. And you don’t have to go far to do good.
  2. Make your space, your year, your life feminist. Live your values. Your feminist values, that is. There are a lot of ways to do this.
  3. Concretely, put your money where… y’know. Align your dollars with your values.
  4. Read, learn, follow, amplify. Check out feminist authors, influencers, journalists, activists — and follow them. They’re on the frontlines — they know what’s up. We need to get their voices to the right places!
  5. Support the causes you care about. Every week I write about the issues and places that need our attention. Last week it was Iran. Before that, it’s been about reproductive rights, about sexism, about harassment… I use my words. You’ve got something to use too. Use it!

We all have the capacity to do something — even in micro-ways. We need to see this as our responsibility too, to build the kind of world we’d actually like to live in. Your small actions matter. I think mine do. And many millions of small actions will help move us closer to equality — faster.

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Lina AbiRafeh

Global women's rights expert, author, speaker, aid worker, feminist activist with 25 years of experience in 20 countries worldwide - and lots of stories!