Gender Equality Guide
Date: July 31, 2020
What is Gender Equality?
Gender equality is a state in which one’s gender does not determine one’s opportunities, freedoms, or importance. Gender parity – a measure of gender balance in a given situation – and gender equity – allocating resources and power evenly between men and women – are tools to achieve gender equality. According to the UN Development Programme Gender Inequality Index, there is no country where women have equal or greater freedoms and resources than men. While many nations surveyed have made progress towards equality, several have stagnated and a few notable cases, like Haiti, have actually seen backsliding. Data is not even available for all countries, shrouding the issue in some mystery.
Gender equality cannot be fully understood without intersectionality. Women face barriers for a number of reasons besides their sex – including their class, race, ability, sexual preference, gender identity, and a host of other factors. It requires that all women, regardless of these other factors, have equal opportunities. Intersectional feminism is the term that describes seeking equality for all women of every background.
Why is Gender Equality Important?
Gender Equality is so essential to advancing human progress that it is the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, as the UN explains:
“Advancing gender equality is critical to all areas of a healthy society, from reducing poverty to promoting the health, education, protection and the well-being of girls and boys.”
Indeed, the World Bank reports that if women made as much as men the global economy would benefit to the tune of $160.2 trillion loss. And an economic loss is not the only factor. Movements like eco-feminism have connected gender equality to other issues, like the environment. Elevating women to positions of leadership has many benefits for the world, women and men alike. Despite these facts, progress on gender inequality is unacceptably slow, according to a report from UN Women. Not only is SDG 5 not on target, it is impeding the progress of the other SDGs.
How to Achieve Gender Equality
There are many ways that donors can make an impact on gender equality. The UN offers suggestions oriented around SDG 5. The Guardian shared these 12 steps to gender equality:
Talk to women and girls. Involving women in girls in decision-making at every level will empower them to contribute valuable insights and lift up other women. Make sure that these women are heard, understood, and truly included in the process.
Let girls use mobile phones. Around the world being connected is vital to safety and economic mobility. Overcoming the infrastructure and cost challenges of expanding connectivity is essential to this process.
Stop child marriage and sexual harassment. Children who marry instead of attending school have few or no options to better their situation throughout their lives. Sexual harassment causes trauma and excludes women from being full participants in important settings like school, work, politics, and their communities.
Make education gender sensitive. Education systems that reinforce gender norms and stereotypes hurt gender equality and impede girls’ attempts to grow into different roles.
Raise aspirations of girls and their parents. Girls and their families need to believe in and desire great possibilities in order to achieve them.
Empower mothers. Mothers with resources and education send their daughters to school.
Give proper value to “women’s work.” Care work – like household chores, childcare, and care for the elderly and sick – is important, unpaid, and disproportionately completed by women. The expectation that this work should be completed for free, by women, severely limits their opportunities.
Get women into power. Women in power can break down barriers and allow for the success of other women. This means in every sector and every industry, including global health.
Encourage women into non-traditional vocations. Breaking stereotypes offers women new economic opportunity and freedom.
Work together. Massive, global undertakings like gender equality will not see progress if work is completed in silos.
Stop the violence. Violence against women keeps them from achieving their goals. Properly addressing domestic violence is essential.
Beware the backlash. It is important to remember that there are people who actively wish to maintain or increase the current level of gender equality. Ensuring that these individuals do not undo the progress that is made is crucial. One way to avoid this problem is to engage men for gender equality.