Tag Archives | feminism

Sustainable Development Goal 5: The Role Men and Boys play in Gender Equality

Gender inequalities have persisted around the world for centuries, and despite the progress that is made each year, millions of women living today still face issues of oppression simply on the basis of their gender. Great strides have been made in the last decade, especially in regions of Sub-Saharan Africa where the ratio of girls to boys in primary schools has risen from 85/100 to 91/100 [1]. But despite advances towards global gender equality, numerous problems are still prevalent around the globe relating to women’s health and reproductive rights, education, legal rights, and gender-based violence. In response to these needs, grassroots organizations, non-governmental organizations and governmental institutions have largely come together to establish projects and demand accountability for the success of these projects.

One NGO, the World Bank, is known for their focus on development and presence of infinite resources, and has taken “gender into consideration” in 99% of all lending endeavors [1]. While the task of ending gender inequality proves to be daunting, numerous organizations around the world agree that the alleviation of global gender inequality could have direct effects on transnational and international development. In an article titled “Why Gender Equality is Key to Sustainable Development”, Mary Robinson suggests that “women are the most convincing advocates for the solutions they need, so they should be at the forefront of decision-making on sustainable development” [2]. Especially in areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, and western Asia, women can already be seen in areas of provision and labor — advocating for their children and communities, while also tirelessly working for economic and structural development. How is it then, if women give so much of themselves to their families, their culture, their countries, that they often have no choice in issues and decisions relating to their own lives or bodies?

Women in the Global North are being enabled to become agents of their own change in this, the 21st century. However, women living in the Global South face many more challenges and have many more obstacles to overcome due largely to how their cultures and communities are structured. While numerous non-profits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have begun to target gender inequality, some argue their intentions only focus on how women and girls see themselves. But, while this approach is valuable, agendas should also take into consideration the role that men and boys have in perpetuating gender inequalities. In their article titled “Towards a New Transformative Development Agenda: The Role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality”, John Hendra, Ingrid FitzGerald, and Dan Seymour insist that “women and girls alone clearly cannot achieve transformation of gender relations and the structural factors that underpin gender inequality” [3].

While it is easy to simply place blame on men for the discrimination and oppression women face, the reality is much more complex. Cultural values and community structure often dictate oppressive or discriminatory behavior against girls, even before they are born. Hendra et. al. insist that “expectations of women and their role in the domestic sphere” as caregivers, and only caregivers, “are extremely hard to change” [3]. But with the growth and adaptation of economic structures and the participation of leaders “at community and family levels to treat boys, girls, women, and men equally”, discrimination can be challenged, equal employment opportunities can flourish, and women in the Global South can begin the process of self-empowerment [3]. 

Grassroots groups and NGOs alike agree there is a need for both women and men to see the importance and effect of gender equality. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) is but one example of an NGO that highlights the idea of gender equality driven development including men and boys. While SIDA conducts numerous projects around the world, addressing issues in need of attention in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America, they appear to be the most active within the continent of Africa. In Tanzania they are working to help women start their own businesses; in Mozambique they have established support that protects and promotes women’s reproductive and sexual rights; in South Sudan they have joined forces with UN Women to encourage women in academic and politics; and in Zambia they have tried to jump start the local health care system by demanding accountability and fighting corruption in the local health care system [4].

While SIDA has been working very hard in the past decade to empower women and free them from gender-oppressive situations, the NGO insists that global gender equality is is important for everyone – not just women and girls. SIDA argues the presence of gender inequality stems from “stereotypical gender norms” that restrict women and men into what society expects of them through expectations of masculinity, standard norms, and gendered expectations [4], and they suggest that, if these systems of gender norms were done away with, people could live more freely as individuals, and development could occur at a more rapid pace.

Despite a continuous growth in the number of organizations worldwide who address gender-related obstacles, issues of gender inequality can still be found in many countries. But with the help of libraries and similar institutions, technology and education are at the forefront of development initiatives that focus on gender equality. The Sustainable Development Goals (and their predecessor – the Millennium Development Goals) have provided a much-needed platform for numerous global issues, and without the publicity and awareness made via the United Nations, many injustices around the world might never be addressed. Achieving gender equality continues to be a challenge in regions where the presence of attitudes towards gender are often directly related to social norms of a community.

Overall, changes in legislation have made it possible for more women to be allowed into areas of government and fewer girls to be forced into marriage unions, but the influence of religion and culture makes problems of circumcision, gender-related violence, and unpaid care work very challenging. However, in conjunction with groups like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, the Pan-African Women’s Organization, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and more, the people and organizations fighting for the eradication of gender inequalities may be better equipped than they were several decades ago, and as each of these organizations (and others) pledge their allegiance to the UN SDGs, and as more awareness is created, the easier it will be for equality to become attainable.

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Footnote:

Pieces of this essay were taken from Mia Adams’ IS 585 final research project. A one semester course offered by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IS 585 focuses on various aspects of International Librarianship. Under the supervision of Professor Steve Witt, students were expected to construct a policy report at the culmination of the semester in response to one of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals outlined by the United Nations.  

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References

[1] “Improving Gender Equality in Africa.” World Bank. http://www.worldbank.org/en/region/afr/brief/improving-gender-equality-in-africa (accessed October 17, 2018).

[2] Robinson, Mary, “Why Gender Equality is Key to Sustainable Development.” World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/03/why-gender-equality-is-integral-to-sustainable-development/ (accessed October 17, 2018).

[3] Hendra, John, Ingrid FitzGerald, and Dan Seymour. “Towards a New Transformative Development Agenda: The Role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality.” Journal of International Affairs, no. 1 (2013): 105-122.

[4] Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). Our Fields of Work: Gender Equality. https://www.sida.se/English/how-we-work/our-fields-of-work/gender-equality/ (accessed October 12, 2018).

All photos courtesy of the Woman Stats project. A wide variety of maps can be found at http://www.womanstats.org/maps.html

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Ending Gender-Based Violence: Global Efforts

Stop Violence Against Women 2

November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and the 16 days between November 25th and and December 10th are designated by Rutger’s University Center for Women’s Global Leadership as 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. These events put the problem of gender-based violence in the international spotlight and provide an opportunity to discuss the issue and how it is being addressed globally.

Violence against women and girls is a problem that reaches across national boundaries. It affects women of all ages, races, ethnicities, and religions.  Because gender-based violence is often a result of deeper, ingrained  societal discrimination, it is difficult to address and more difficult to eliminate. No matter what form the violence takes, it is harmful not just to individuals but to communities and societies at large. It is a human rights issue with wide-reaching implications that garners attention from the highest levels of international governance but will require fundamental change at the individual and community levels to stop.

Statistics

Here are some jarring global statistics about gender-based violence:

  • Up to 70 percent of women encounter some form of violence during their lifetime. (UN)
  • 1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime. The abuser is usually a member of the woman’s family. (WHO)
  • Of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked across national borders annually, women and girls make up 80%.  A majority of these women and girls are trafficked for sexual exploitation. (WHO)
  • The number of women alive today who have undergone female genital mutilation is an estimated 100 and 140 million. (WHO)
  • In some parts of the world it is more likely that a girl will be raped than learn how to read. (WHO)
  • Women aged 15-44 are statistically more likely to be harmed by rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria. (UN)

What can be done?

The UN campaign UNiTE to End Violence Against Women outlines 16 steps that they believe are necessary to work towards ending violence against women.  These include adopting and enforcing laws, engaging the mass media, mobilizing men and boys, ending impunity towards conflict-related sexual violence, making justice available to women and girls, along with several more.  International and regional treaties are also an effective tool in mobilizing large-scale action to eliminate violence against women. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, defines discrimination against women as “…any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.” This widely-arching convention is a powerful tool for gender equality that calls upon UN member states to enact laws and create institutions to eliminate discrimination.

The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) has been proposed as a piece of legislation in the United States, supported by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other advocacy groups, that would address violence against women through United States foreign policy, implementing a set of best practices for preventing the violence and prosecuting perpetrators of such acts.  The act was introduced in 2011 to the United States Congress, but was not passed into law.  Critics, such as Wendy McElroy from The Independent Institute,  claim that the act would unfairly ignore male victims of gendered and sexual violence.  Some international agreements, such as the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention, address this concern, pointing out that the principles and framework of such rulings can be applied to “men, children and the elderly who are exposed to violence within the family or domestic unit.” It will remain to be seen whether formal legislation such as I-VAWA will be passed in the United States, but advocacy organizations hope that awareness events such as International Violence Against Women Day and the 16 Days Campaign will spur the creation of new legal measures and activism throughout the world to address this problem.

Check out the resources below to learn more or get involved!

Web Resources

International Violence Against Women Survey

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2014

Unite to End Violence Against Women

No1Nowhere Campaign

Women Thrive Worldwide

Violence Against Women FactSheet – UN

Books from the UIUC Libraries

Nakray, Keerty. (Eds.) (2013). Gender-based violence and public health: international perspectives on budgets and policiesAbingdon, Oxon : Routledge.

Nichols, Andrea J. (2014). Feminist advocacy: gendered organizations in community-based responses to domestic violenceLanham : Lexington Books.

Renzetti, Claire M., Edleson, Jeffrey L.Bergen, Raquel Kennedy. (2010). Sourcebook on Violence Against Women. Thousand Oaks : SAGE Publications.

Rose, Susan D.. (2014). Challenging global gender violence :the Global Clothesline Project. New York : Palgrave Pivot.

Stewart, Mary White. (2014). Ordinary violence: everyday assaults against women worldwideSanta Barbara, California : Praeger, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC.

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)

Casey, E. A., Carlson, J., Fraguela-Rios, C., Kimball, E., Neugut, T. B., Tolman, R. M., & Edleson, J. L. (2013). Context, Challenges, and Tensions in Global Efforts to Engage Men in the Prevention of Violence against Women: An Ecological Analysis. Men & Masculinities, 16(2), 228-251.

Devries, K. M., Mak, J. T., García-Moreno, C., Petzold, M., Child, J. C., Falder, G., & … Watts, C. H. (2013). The Global Prevalence of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women. Science, 340(6140), 1527-1528.

Mason, C. L. (2013). Global Violence Against Women as National Security “Emergency”. Feminist Formations, 25(2), 55-80.

McFarlane, J., Nava, A., Gilroy, H., Paulson, R., & Maddoux, J. (2012). Testing Two Global Models to Prevent Violence against Women and Children: Methods and Baseline Data Analysis of a Seven-Year Prospective Study. Issues In Mental Health Nursing, 33(12), 871-881.

Šimonović, D. (2014). Global and Regional Standards on Violence Against Women: The Evolution and Synergy of the CEDAW and Istanbul Conventions. Human Rights Quarterly, 36(3), 590-606.

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Global Challenges for Gender Equality

UN Commission on the Status of Women

This week, the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) coincides with International Women’s Day (which took place on March 8th), as well as Women’s History Month in the U.S.  These events present a great opportunity to discuss and examine the challenges faced by women and girls in today’s world.  Let’s focus on three key target areas for gender equality (UN Women, 2013).

Freedom from violence against women and girls

The World Health Organization reported in 2013 that 35% of women worldwide have experienced some type of violence  in their lifetime. This violence can have serious and long-lasting effects on women’s mental, reproductive, and sexual health (WHO, 2013). This issue is addressed in the UN Millennium Development Goals, and will undoubtedly be addressed by the post-2015 development goals.  UN Women works to encourage legal reform, create safe spaces for women, provide health services for victims of violence, increase awareness of the problem, and prevent violence by addressing the root causes. This cause has also been taken up by many private organizations, such as End Violence Against Women International and Springtide Resources. These organizations focus on education initiatives, prevention programs, as well as conducting research to guide efforts at reform.

Gender Equality in the Distribution of Capabilities

This area involves women’s access to education, healthcare, and opportunities such as land or work with equal pay.  The Millennium Development Goals Report of 2013 indicates that progress is being made in all of these areas, but this progress varies by region and demographic.  For instance, the report reveals that women tend to hold less secure jobs than men in developing regions.  The statistics for education reveal that in Northern Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and Western Asia, the gender disparity in education still remains high (UN, 2013).  The World Economic Forum’s World Gender Gap Report also shows that the “Gender Gap” varies greatly depending on region and tends to be higher in developing areas(World Economic Forum, 2013).

Gender equality in decision-making power

This issue is about women holding positions of influence in public forums and government, but also in their own homes and families.  The number of women that hold parliamentary seats has increased in almost every world region since 2000, mostly due to the creation of legislative or voluntary quotas that require a certain number of female members. However, women’s decision-making power at home remains significantly lower than men’s in many regions of the world (UN, 2013).  These types of decisions range from money-related decisions, to women’s ability to visit friends and family, to decisions about women’s own health.  Family dynamics are greatly influenced by societal and institutional norms, and the hope of many organizations is that by increasing women’s access to education and work opportunities, these norms will begin to change in a direction that is less discriminatory towards women.

Why is gender equality so important?

In a recent report, the UK-based Department for International Development explains that economic stability and growth for developing countries is greatly boosted by improved gender equality.  It makes sense – if women and girls can gain access to improved education, they will eventually get better jobs and be able to better contribute to the economy. The same study shows that including women in political decision-making leads to more effective governance, since women’s presence in government brings greater diversity and different experience to the process (DFID, 2013). This makes the problem all the more pressing and important.  Gender equality is not only a significant concern from a human rights standpoint, but it will allow for the economic and political growth that developing nations need to make them competitive in world markets.

But on a more basic level, gender equality is about advancing human rights for all citizens of the world.

Check out the resources below to learn more about this subject:

Organizations

He for She

UN Women

Women Thrive Wordwide

International Labour Organization Bureau for Gender Equality (GENDER)

End Violence Against Women International

Springtide Resources

Women for Women International

 

Informative Websites and Web Articles

Timeline of International Agreements and Standards to End Violence against Women

Five Human Rights Issues for U.S. NonProfits on International Women’s Day – Non-Profit Quarterly

International Women’s Day: Mainstream Messaging For The Radical Cause Of Full Economic Empowerment – Forbes

 

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC E-Journals)

Corinne L. Mason. “Global Violence Against Women as a National Security “Emergency”.” Feminist Formations 25.2 (2013): 55-80. Project MUSE. Web. 14 Mar. 2014.

Hendra, J., FitzGerald, I., & Seymour, D. (2013). TOWARDS A NEW TRANSFORMATIVE DEVELOPMENT AGENDA: THE ROLE OF MEN AND BOYS IN ACHIEVING GENDER EQUALITY. Journal Of International Affairs67(1), 105-122.

Munin, N. (2013). NGOs, Multinational Enterprises and Gender Equality in Labor Markets: A Political Economy of Conflicting Interests?. Journal Of Multidisciplinary Research (1947-2900)5(1), 5-26.

Chant, SylviaSweetman, Caroline.  (2012). Fixing women or fixing the world? ‘Smarteconomics’, efficiency approaches, and gender equality in development. Gender & Development. 20(3), 517-52.

 

Latest Books at the UIUC Libraries

Joffe, Lisa Fishbayn.Neil, Sylvia. (Eds.) (2013). Gender, religion, & family law: theorizing conflicts between women’s rights and cultural traditionsWaltham, Mass. : Brandeis University Press.

Karamessini, Maria.Rubery, Jill. (Eds.) (2014). Women and austerity: the economic crisis and the future for gender equalityMilton Park, Abingdon, Oxon : Routledge.

Ringrose, Jessica. (2013). Postfeminist education?: girls and the sexual politics of schoolingLondon : Routledge.

Rose, Susan D.. (2014). Challenging global gender violence: the Global Clothesline ProjectNew York : Palgrave Pivot.

Runyan, Anne Sisson,Peterson, V. Spike. (2014). Global gender issues in the new millenniumBoulder, CO : Westview Press.

Yarwood, Lisa. (Eds.) (2013). Women and transitional justice: the experience of women as participantsAbingdon, Oxon : Routledge.

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