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Gender equality and female empowerment as a norm

The very notion of gender equality entails the belief that injustice is associated with the very definition of the concept. It is imperative that we reflect on this association. Injustice arises out of society’s inability to accept the fact that men and women should be equal.

The realisation that sustainable development is not possible without equality between men and women is a relatively recent finding and directly linked to sustainability issues. A holistic, comprehensive approach to sustainability is one of the most important ways to support and maintain gender justice and equality. The world needs to urgently define the issues of social responsibility, so that the major themes related to the human being can be shared among all genders. It is important to take care of our increasingly volatile planet, but more importantly it is to take care of the people who live on it.

Defending equality between men and women, or boys and girls, is as important as combating domestic violence, or empowering low-income groups. Teaching that rights should be equal, as well as opportunities and performance, are mandatory themes, reminding us that the road to true equality is still long.

The importance of rectifying gender injustice and restoring women’s dignity in parts of the world is unquestionable. Gender equality is the fifth Sustainable Development Goal of the UN. The UN acts to empower women and girls in all its programmes. With stepped-up action on gender equality, every part of the world can move towards sustainable development by 2030, leaving none behind.

Multiple targets

The targets include ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls, eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation, eliminating harmful practices such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

Other goals relate to recognising and valuing unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate. Women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life need to be ensured, as also universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the review conferences.

Other goals include reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws, enhancing the use of enabling technology to promote empowerment of women, and adopting and strengthening sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and empowerment.

Indeed, the importance of women in the sustainable development of society is more than just a theoretical or intellectual discussion. It is a campaign or cause that unites women in the awareness of their fundamental role for this sustainable development to be achieved. Women actively contribute in all sectors of productive activity, side by side with men, seeking equality based on respect and recognition of their role in society.

However, their rights continue to be denied and their contribution to the sustainability of society are stunted or overlooked.

Women’s roles should be increasingly valued as an active presence within the family with responsibilities, whether in the world of work, communities, or just as mothers. Their contribution is indispensable to a sustainable society, since their participation has become an example of social inclusion and empowerment.

Daily reality

For many women this recognition and appreciation of their abilities is part of their day-to-day life. Tragically, most women aren’t recognised in any sense that would empower them. It is a serious, crippling and psychologically debilitating problem. Most women earn less than men in the same professions, are victims of discrimination, struggle with work and home and are often still the targets of aggression and sexual harassment.

How, then, can one imagine sustainable development without the potential of women, which has not been supported enough the world over so far? We need to create the necessary mechanisms for new ideas to be considered in a serious and responsible way. There are many obstacles along the road to true equality. We should encourage women to seek independence and not be afraid to consider alternatives that can generate multiple income streams.

Parents need to educate sons and daughters so that they respect each other and are willing to share domestic work. Boys need to be taught not to reproduce expressions such as “This is a woman’s thing,” or denigrate certain professions or activities. Such discourse violates the dignity of women who give decades of their lives doing thankless and often unpaid or low-paid work taken for granted, often by men.

Finally, we all have a moral responsibility to report cases of violence, abuse and sexual exploitation against children and adolescents.

There is always more we can do. When women uplift themselves (and we uplifted by other women and men), men and children benefit. A world where women and men can realise their full potential is an imperative.

The author works in education programmes for unlettered adults and children, especially women and girls, in Nepal.

Email: soniagomes@spasozen.com

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Printable version | Jan 14, 2021 8:53:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/gender-equality-and-female-empowerment-as-a-norm/article24956584.ece

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