“Gender equality is the unfinished business of the 21st century,” says Elizabeth Broderick. Indeed, human beings are living in the best phase of their history in the twenty-first century. They have attained glory and progress in multidisciplinary fields of life and are trying to conquer new worlds of advancement. Moreover, they have better standards of living in numerous domains, such as personal, social, political, economic, etc.
However, certain social dilemmas are still under the table and require a holistic transformation, and one of them is the absence of gender equality. In brief, gender equality means that men and women are equal in terms of their rights and should have equal opportunities for financial independence, education, political participation, decision-making, and personal development.
But practically, most of the women are not only unaware of their rights, but also not permitted to raise their voices against inequalities. The core reasons behind the menace of gender inequality include weak legislation, poor implementation of laws, a patriarchal society, socio-religious taboos and misconceptions, stereotyped gender roles, cultural barriers, etc.
In addition to the causes, the consequences of gender inequality are also quite hard to digest. It is because depriving half of the global population of their fundamental rights undermines the progress of the remaining half as well. So it is right to say that gender equality is a point of concern to the whole world rather than women only.
This fact grabbed global attention in 2015 when United Nations Organizations (UNO) chalked out 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and placed Gender Equality in the fifth spot. Now the question is what are SDGs and what are the aims and objectives behind them, especially SDG-5? To get the answer, it is better to take a bird’s eye view of the subject matter first.
SDGs are the global plan of action against socio-economic, political, and humanitarian issues faced by people all over the world. They provide a practical framework to make the world a better place to live in by 2030. Similarly, according to UNO, the key target of SDG-5 is to end all forms of discrimination, violence, and harassment inflicted upon women from different walks of life.
Moreover, it also aims to emancipate females from socio-religious myths and taboos by empowering them in personal, social, and professional domains. However, the situation is quite poignant because the facts and figures – as quoted on the UNO official portal – reflect extreme gender inequality.
Starting from a personal level, 35% of women have experienced physical and sexual violence globally. Similarly, two third of developing countries have achieved gender parity in primary education; almost 750 million women alive today were married before their 18th birthday and more than half a million women die annually due to complications of pregnancy, childbirth, or postpartum period.
On the economic side, women earn only 77 cents for every dollar that men get for the same work and they represent just 13% of agricultural landholders worldwide. Furthermore, only 24% of national parliamentarians were women as of November 2018, a small increase from 11.3% in 1995 which shows the political marginalization of women all over the world.
Last but not least the aftermaths of floods, droughts, earthquakes, viral diseases, and other climatic vulnerabilities pose more danger to the lives of women in comparison to their counterparts. In short, exploitation of women is common everywhere in the world; though dynamics may differ but grievances remain the same. Although challenges are grave and it seems that gender equality is a herculean task to achieve; however, the situation can be improved significantly by taking concrete measures at the international and national echelons.
Here, the UNO needs to lead the marathon of gender equality by assisting the global actors – especially the developing world – to implement the reform agenda effectively. Moreover, First World countries have moral obligations to provide material and non-material assistance to the developing world through different welfare programs. Similarly, at the national level, governments need to formulate new laws and isolate the hiccups of existing ones to end all forms of discrimination against women.
Likewise, proper implementation of laws is also essential to realize desirable outcomes because the theory has little or no significance unless it is implemented in true letter and spirit. Besides, there is a dire need to empower women economically, politically, and socially by ensuring girls’ education, equal access to career opportunities, and isolating socio-religious myths.
Lastly, a mass-level awareness campaign is also a need of the hour in which all the dominant segments of society including politicians, judiciary, bureaucracy, educational institutions, etc., have to play their constructive parts. Especially, the role of religious scholars and media is quite evident in this matter because these two corridors have the power to construct and deconstruct the thoughts of the masses; thus, can promote gender equality in the world.
To cut the long story short in the words of Kofi Anan, “Gender equality is more than a goal itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of poverty, promoting sustainable development, and building good governance.”