The pop stars joined U2 singer, Bono, boxer Muhammad Ali, and actress Charlize Theron in adding their voices to the call by the ONE Campaign, ahead of International Women’s Day, on Tuesday.
In an open letter to government, the campaigners said “poverty is sexist” and said 155 countries have laws that discriminate against women.
The letter said: “Nowhere on Earth do women have as many opportunities as men. Nowhere. While the debate around this truth rages everywhere, girls and women living in extreme poverty — those often hardest hit by the injustice of gender inequality — have been left out of the conversation. This must change. The fight for gender equity is global.”
The ONE Campaign, co-founded by Bono, said Niger, in west Africa, was the “toughest” country in which to be born a girl. Its analysis, in a report called ‘Poverty Is Sexist’, said girls in Niger have fewer education and economic opportunities.
The open letter says that 63m girls are denied access to education and half a billion women cannot read.
It called for more funding to help girls and women fight HIV and malnutrition, ahead of two summits, Nutrition For Growth, and Global Fund, this year. The group said it was an “outrage” that girls account for three-quarters of new HIV infections and that 40% of women in Africa suffer anaemia.
Sir Elton, founder of The Elton John Aids Foundation, said the numbers of young girls affected was “heartbreaking. Stopping the spread of HIV will mean doing more to protect girls and young women. The Global Fund is doing powerful work, helping treat and prevent Aids, and deserves expanded support from world leaders,” he said.
“We have the chance to stop HIV/Aids in our lifetime, and we need to raise our voices, now, to make sure it happens.”
Diane Sheard, UK director of the ONE Campaign, said:
“As hosts of the first Nutrition For Growth summit and major historical contributors to the Global Fund, now is not the time for the UK to take a back seat.”