NEW YORK. — Chat show queen Oprah Winfrey, actress Meryl Streep and singer Elton John called on Monday for world leaders to put girls at the heart of anti-poverty efforts as a new index revealed Niger was the toughest country to be a girl.
In an open letter, published on the eve of International Women’s Day, a host of prominent figures urged leaders to improve girls’ and women’s access to education, justice and technology and help them fight HIV and malnutrition.
They said it was “an outrage” that girls make up three-quarters of all new HIV infections among adolescents in Africa and that 40 percent of women on the continent suffer from anaemia which results in a fifth of maternal deaths.
“Nowhere on earth do women have as many opportunities as men,” the letter added.
“While the debate around this truth rages everywhere, girls and women living in extreme poverty — those often hit hardest by the injustice of gender inequality — have been left out of the conversation. This must change. The fight for gender equity is global.”
The 80 plus signatories include boxer Muhammad Ali, actors Robert Redford and Colin Farrell, actresses Charlize Theron and Patricia Arquette, Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg and U2 singer Bono, co-founder of anti-poverty charity ONE which published the letter. Elton John said the number of young girls affected by HIV was “heartbreaking”.
“We have the chance to stop HIV/AIDS in our lifetime, and we need to raise our voices now to make sure it happens.” Singer Angelique Kidjo said Africa’s future lay in its young women.
“If they are educated, they will educate their communities. If they are healthy, they will ensure others grow up healthy. If they are empowered, they will change the world.” — Reuters.