May 30, 2012
Moderator Jimmy Briggs of Man Up, a global campaign to activate youth to stop violence against women and girls, faced the topic of rape as a weapon of war head on in the opening panel discussion. His message was this: Gender-based violence is not a monolithic phenomenon; it takes many shapes and forms. When you oppress a woman, you oppress entire families, entire communities, entire societies. Briggs described his turning point as the moment he realized that goodness and manhood are not defined by what you don’t do or say to a woman, but ratherthey are defined by what you do, and by the actions you take to stop oppressive behavior.
The panel tackled weighty topics such as domestic violence, sex trafficking and violence in the workplace in an effort to demonstrate that violence against women prevents a country’s development and is directly linked to negative economic impacts.
Pamela Shifman of the NoVo Foundation emphasized the need for investment in adolescent girls to remove the vulnerabilities that feed the business of sex trafficking. She pointed to Sweden as a case study in change. In the last decade, Sweden adopted the approach of criminalizing the buyer, not the bought. The result? The rate of sexual exploitation by men in Sweden has dropped from one in eight to one in forty.
Still, sexual exploitation of girls and women is pervasive worldwide. $32 billion is spent each year on human trafficking, of which sexual trafficking is far and away the largest part. Even more disturbing is the statistic that, for every 800 women trafficked, only one person is convicted.
Women Thrive Worldwide’s Seema Jalan made the economic case for decisive action, pointing to research that demonstrates that if women are marginalized in a country it is a key indicator of civil war. “Only two per cent of development dollars are going to adolescent girls,” said Jalan. “Productive economic change can’t happen with this little investment.”
The Summit’s closing session left the delegates with the belief that they can each make a difference in their own way. Led by Amanda Alvaro, a “power panel” of top female executives from Google, Scotiabank and Nissan gave the young women real-life advice and tangible examples of what can be accomplished when gender-based barriers are removed and women are encouraged and empowered to reach their full potential.
Said Nicole Reich, President & CEO of Scotiabank Mexico, “I’m not sure a glass ceiling exists, but if it is there, it’s just glass. It’s not concrete. Break it.”