Feb 18, 2012

Countdown to World Day of Social Justice: Bridging the gender gap

2 DAYS: Countdown to February 20, World Day of Social Justice 2012 – Gender Equality

In Day 2 of our countdown to World Day of Social Justice, we look at injustice against women in multiple arenas. Gender inequality has created discrimination for years, in different contexts and countries around the world. Women have struggled to gain access to legal systems, adequate education, and fair treatment in the work place. Some countries further limit women’s social freedoms, including how they dress, how they speak, and where they can go.

Establishing universal equality for women is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals, as dignity and personal freedom are human rights. Today, 125 countries have banned domestic violence, and 115 countries guarantee equal property rights for women. Twenty-eight countries have met or crossed the 30 percent threshold for women’s representation in parliament and nineteen women currently serve as an elected Head of State. In addition, the UN has recently created a new organization, UN Women, to help women around the world achieve legal and social justice.

“The past century has seen a transformation in women’s legal rights, with countries the world over expanding the scope of women’s legal entitlements. However, for millions of women worldwide, the laws that exist on paper do not translate into equality and justice.”

UN Women’s report, Progress of the World’s Women, 2011-12

Unfortunately, these landmark legal changes do not always translate to practical improvements for women. Approximately 600 million women around the world, over half of the world’s working women, face job insecurity or are excluded from labor legislation. More than a third of women in developing countries are married before their 18th birthday, preventing them from accessing basic education and increasing their chances of early pregnancy.

There are numerous ways to overcoming the challenges that remain in the realm of gender inequality. UN Women suggests ten concrete actions to create social institutions that are equal and lasting. Among them are supporting organizations that advocate for and empower women of all classes and encouraging women in political and law enforcement positions. For more information, check out UN Women’s full report: Progress of the World’s Women 2011-12.

Women in the US also continue to face gender-based inequality. Among other arenas, work place discrimination prevents women from ascending to leadership positions and keeps women’s salaries at proportionally lower rates than those of men working similar jobs. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, discusses a number of reasons that women leaders are so scarce.

Although significant strides have been made in the past years to advance the political and social position of women, much work remains to be done. Until women can easily access the progress we have made, we must continue to encourage tangible solutions for gender inequality around the world.

//In the news:

The UNFPA, the EU, and the G77 have started to place more emphasis on eliminating gender discrimination for the outcomes document of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development.

Many countries still face endemically high rates of sex-selection against girls. While some countries have developed programs to combat sex-selection, discrimination is still particularly common among people of laboring classes.

//Stand-out organizations fighting for women’s rights:

International: Girl Effect works globally to empower young girls via education and opportunity before and during adolescence. Giving girls the chance to succeed early on gives them future job prospects and will help them support their families.

In the U.S.: The Ms. Foundation for Women aims to build women’s collective power to create equitable changes in policy and culture for women across the United States.

 //How does GlobeMed play into all this?

GlobeMed supports a number of projects for income generation, maternal and reproductive health education, and capacity building. Students use each of these venues to promote sustainable living practices for women abroad. GlobeMed at GWU and Rwanda Village Concept Project are working together to construct a clinic waiting room and enable fifty mothers to begin farming as a source of income. GlobeMed at Whitman College and Burmese Women’s Union are organizing a reproductive health training program for women at refugee camps in Thailand. These partnerships and others are helping power a worldwide shift toward increased opportunities for women and gender equality in the public arena.

Written by Roshni Bhatnagar


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