Gender equality, also known as sexual equality or equality of the sexes, is the state of equal ease of access to resources and opportunities regardless of gender, including economic participation and decision-making; and the state of valuing different behaviors, aspirations, and needs equally, regardless of gender.
Gender equality is the goal, while gender neutrality and gender equities are practices and ways of thinking that help in achieving the goal. Gender parity, which is used to measure gender balance in a given situation, can aid in achieving gender equality but is not the goal in and of itself.
Gender equality is more than equal representation, it is strongly tied to women’s rights, and often requires policy changes. As of 2017, the global movement for gender equality has not incorporated the proposition of genders besides women and men, or gender identities outside of the gender binary.
UNICEF says gender equality “means that women and men, and girls and boys, enjoy the same rights, resources, opportunities, and protections. It does not require that girls and boys, or women and men, be the same, or that they be treated exactly alike.”[a]
On a global scale, achieving gender equality also requires eliminating harmful practices against women and girls, including sex trafficking, femicide, wartime sexual violence, gender wage gap, and other oppression tactics. UNFPA stated that “despite many international agreements affirming their human rights, women are still much more likely than men to be poor and illiterate. They have less access to property ownership, credit, training, and employment.
This partly stems from the archaic stereotypes of women being labeled as child-bearers and homemakers, rather than the breadwinners of the family. They are far less likely than men to be politically active and far more likely to be victims of domestic violence.
Women of the world want and deserve an equal future free from stigma, stereotypes, and violence; a future that’s sustainable, peaceful, with equal rights and opportunities for all. To get us there, the world needs women at every table where decisions are being made.
This year, the theme for International Women’s Day celebrates the tremendous efforts of women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights the gaps that remain.
Women’s full and effective participation and leadership in all areas of life drive progress for everyone. Yet, women are still underrepresented in public life and decision-making, as revealed in the UN, Women are Heads of State or Government in 22 countries, and only 24.9 percent of national parliamentarians are women. At the current rate of progress, gender equality among Heads of Government will take another 130 years.
When women lead, we see positive results. Some of the most efficient and exemplary responses to the COVID-19 pandemic were led by women. And women, especially young women, are at the forefront of diverse and inclusive movements online and on the streets for social justice, climate change, and equality in all parts of the world. Yet, women under 30 are less than 1 percent of parliamentarians worldwide.
This is why, this year’s International Women’s Day is a rallying cry for Generation Equality, to act for an equal future for all. The Generation Equality Forum, the most important convening for gender equality investment and actions, kicks off in Mexico City from 29 – 31 March and culminates in Paris in June 2021. It will draw leaders, visionaries, and activists from around the world, safely on a virtual platform, to push for transformative and lasting change for generations to come.
10 reasons why gender equality is important
Gender equality seems like a faraway dream these days. While progress has been made, the numbers from groups like UN Women tell a discouraging story. Over 2 billion women don’t have the same employment options as men. At the current rate, it will take about a century to close the global pay gap. While human trafficking affects men and women, women and girls make up over 70% of the world’s human trafficking victims. In the face of this data, gender equality needs to be a priority. Why? Here are 10 reasons why it’s important:
1. It saves lives
Because of their lack of empowerment and resources in many places, women and girls face life-threatening risks. Natural disasters are one example. At the 2005 World Conference on Disaster Reduction, experts discussed how gender inequality plays a role in death and injury. Other data shows that climate change, which makes natural disasters more dangerous, puts women and girls in even more vulnerable positions. Bringing a gender perspective into discussions allows women to play a bigger role in their protection.
2. It results in better healthcare
Research shows that in general, women receive worse medical care than men. There are many reasons for this, including lack of education and lower incomes. Sexism in the medical research community also leads to worse care. Diseases that affect women more than men (such as chronic pain conditions) aren’t as well-researched. They’re often not taken as seriously by medical professionals. When women are equal in society, their health will be impacted positively.
3. It helps businesses
When women receive the same education and job opportunities as men, they can improve any organization they join. Studies show that diversity of all types (gender, race, sexual identity, etc) increases an organization’s productivity and innovation. One 2016 study from the University of California looked at big companies in the state with some women in the top leadership positions. They performed better than the companies with mostly men at the top.
4. It’s good for the economy
Women’s impact doesn’t stop with individual companies and organizations. Studies show that increasing women’s participation in the economy is good for the economy. In OECD countries, if the female employment rates were raised to match Sweden, it would lead to a GDP increase equivalent to $6 trillion. Gender pays gaps to end up costing the economy.
5. Children are healthier
When women make their own reproductive choices, they provide better care for the children they do have. With income options equal to men, mothers can offer education, healthcare, and healthier food to their children. Studies also show that reduced infant mortality is linked to higher levels of education. Children raised in gender-equal environments will do better than those raised with inequality.
6. It leads to better legal protections
Under the law, women aren’t well-protected from domestic sexual, and economic violence. Both of these types of violence affect a woman’s safety and freedom. Increasing women’s legal rights keeps them safe and able to build productive happy lives.
7. It leads to better racial equality
Gender equality and race equality are closely linked. Within issues like the gender pay gap, race plays a big role. White and Asian women earn more than black, Hispanic, and native women. In the United States, black women face a higher risk of death from pregnancy-related causes. When gender equality considers race as a factor, it improves race equality at the same time.
8. It reduces poverty
Poverty rates are the highest among young girls. As boys and girls get older, the gender gap in poverty gets larger. This is likely because girls don’t receive the same education and job opportunities as boys, and when girls marry, they often don’t work. Gender inequality keeps women and their families trapped in cycles of poverty. When women receive better education, healthcare, and job opportunities, they can thrive. Investing in gender inequality is a sustainable, highly effective way to reduce poverty.
9. It reduces human trafficking
While men are also victims of human trafficking, women, and girls make up the majority. They’re more vulnerable and traffickers see them as easier targets. With better education and job options, women and girls don’t end up in trafficking situations as often. Gender equality can also help strengthen a country, reducing poverty and instability. These fuel human trafficking.
10. It can lead to peace
Research shows that gender equality is linked to peace, even more so than a country’s GDP or level of democracy. States with better gender equality are less likely to use military force. When a country addresses major areas of gender inequality like education and employment, it fosters peace.
o Globally, some progress on women’s rights has been achieved. However, work still needs to be done in the Gambia to achieve gender equality. 25.7% of women aged 20–24 years old were married or in a union before age 18. The adolescent birth rate is 67.5 per 1,000 women aged 15-19 as of 2016, down from 86 per 1,000 in 2012.
o As of February 2021, only 8.6% of seats in parliament were held by women. In 2013, 7.3% of women aged 15-49 years reported that they had been subject to physical and/or sexual violence by a current or former intimate partner in the previous 12 months. Moreover, women of reproductive age (15-49 years) often face barriers concerning their sexual and reproductive health and rights: in 2020, 39.7% of women had their need for family planning satisfied with modern methods
o For this score, we use the 72 gender-specific SDG indicators in the Women Count Data Hub’s SDG Dashboard for the 193 UN Member States. For each indicator, we calculate the 33rd and 66th percentiles of the distribution and, based on those two values, countries are classified as belonging to high performance, medium performance, and low-performance categories. For more details, see the methodological note and the article “We now have more gender-related SDG data than ever, but is it enough?”
The Gambia adopted its first National Action Plan (NAP) in 2012, but the NAP does not identify a specific period of implementation. The development of the NAP involved reviewing existing literature on UNSCR 1325, the Gambia’s National Gender and Women’s Empowerment Policy 2010-2020, other laws, conventions, bills, and policies that affect the rights of women and girls internationally and nationally.
The NAP has three overarching goals: to ensure greater respect for women’s right to participation in the decision-making processes on equal footing with men; to eliminate discrimination against women and to end SGBV perpetrated against women; and to involve women in the security sector, conflict resolution mechanisms and peace processes, including peacekeeping operations.
Each goal has corresponding actions, outputs, and indicators as well as an allocated budget.
Gambia reported on the implementation of its NAP in its national reporting for Beijing+25 and preparation for CSW64 (2020). Specifically, the country indicated the development of a second NAP, which will have the following priorities (p. 27):
o Sensitization on and popularization of women’s human rights and promotion of peace, including UNSCR 1325 and related resolutions targeting decision-makers; various sectors; women and men at all levels; educational and academic institutions as well as opinion, religious and traditional leaders, and other stakeholders to appreciate gender equality and to know what provisions are available;
o Capacity strengthening of partner organizations on gender, women, peace, and security to systematically build the foundation of the ripple down effect need to reach a broader constituency of the population and to enhance strategic partnerships;
o Strengthening the early warning mechanism to avoid internal conflict;
o Implement the recommendations of research directed at enhancing participation and representation of women;
o Exchange visits with neighboring countries to enhance partnerships, learning, and sharing on good practices.
The Gambia gained independence in 1965 from the United Kingdom, after decades of colonial rule under the British empire. In 1981, Gambia experienced a failed coup attempt, while another coup attempt in 1994 led to the overthrow of the government and subsequent military rule until 1996. Political instability in the country continued throughout the 2000s, with failed coup attempts in 2000, 2006, and 2014.
Women were disproportionately impacted by the 22-year rule under president Yahya Jammeh, which was marked by widespread human rights violations. Specifically, women human rights defenders were threatened for any possible critique of the government, while women and girls were deliberately targeted with sexual and gender-based violence.
For further information UN, UNDP AND UNICEF websites, email: [email protected], send WhatsApp messages to Dr Azadeh on 02207774469 ONLY from 3 to 6PM.
Author: Dr Hassan Azadeh, senior university lecturer at the University of The Gambia, clinical director at Medicare Health Services.