When it comes to gender inequality, a lot of people don’t even accept the existence of a huge ‘gender gap’ in society. They perceive all gender discrimination and inequalities as social and cultural norms and feel it is ideal to adhere to these traditions. They also fail to acknowledge that there is systematic gender discrimination almost everywhere in the world. Women don’t have equal access and opportunities of education, employment, healthcare or political participation.
Can Gender Gap Really be Measured?
The Global Gender Gap Index was first introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 as a framework for measuring gender disparities and tracking their progress over time. The Index is designed to measure gender-based gaps in access to resources and opportunities in countries.
World Economic Forum ranks countries according to the calculated gender gap between women and men in four key areas: health, education, economic opportunities and politics.
According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020, the gaps between women and men on economic participation and political empowerment in the 153 countries will take 257 and 95 years to close respectively! The gap in economic participation and opportunity is the widest at 42.2%. There are 72 countries where women are barred from opening bank accounts or obtaining credit. In the past 50 years, 85 states have had no female head of state. There is no country where men spend the same amount of time on unpaid work as women.
Mind The Gap
Gender-based discrimination and oppression does not only affect women, but also affect the economic and social growth of the entire community. Men must actively participate in dismantling patriarchy. Without that we will never see a gender-equal world.
Healthy, educated and independent women are assets to the community. It is the responsibility of every person, irrespective of their gender, religion, ethnicity, social and cultural background to think and act responsibly to reduce gender gaps and inequity.
How Can you make a difference?
Be Mindful about your unconscious biases
Before you start taking any action, it is very important to be mindful about your unconscious biases about the existing gender gap in your life and try to minimize it. It might need a lot of self-reflection and awareness to detect and eliminate signs of inequalities from your own life! Some of these might be parts of the regular dynamics of your life and would not appear ‘abnormal’ to you at the beginning.
It is probably much more difficult to change our own habits and unconscious biases than to fight against social evils!
But, the best way to influence others is by setting examples. However challenging the process might be, aim to set an example by the way you lead your life! That’s is probably the most effective way to start making any difference in the world!
Reflect on your own life and surroundings
Probably you were raised with cultural believes that purpose of every woman to be good wives and good mothers. As a result, you think women must stay at home, do the household chores, and raise the children. Even the thoughts of seeing your wife pursuing a job or career make you uncomfortable. Please question the validity and relevance of these cultural believes and ask yourself, why a woman can not be economically independent, or a man can not cook or look after his kids? How could it negatively affect any family or the community?
Look around yourself to identify whether-
- females are considered as equally capable as males.
- girls and boys have similar rights, freedom, and access to all opportunities.
- women are allowed to live their lives in their own terms.
- women and men and boys and girls are treated equally by the families and societies.
- girls and women feel safe in the public places, workplaces and at home.
- women and men have the same inheritance and property laws and rights.
- there are discriminatory social customs, laws, and rules applicable only for women.
- amount of domestic work done by women are the same as men
Identify your goals
The next step could be to reflect on the socio-cultural issues that bother you the most and where you are genuinely passionate about creating differences in. Ask yourself, where and how could you be the most effective and most authentic in your fight against discrimination?
Pick up any issue, however small it might be, where you think you could make a real difference. It might not necessarily be a very big or rebellious step. For instance, It could be as small as making sure you are involving your son along with your daughter in cleaning and cooking or supporting your wife in pursuing her career.
After that, you can educate others about the importance of empowering women or bring changes in your workplace by advocating for making more women-friendly workplaces or creating company policies for working mothers. You can also create campaigns to abolish discriminatory norms or systems.
These are just a few examples and definitely are not all-inclusive. If you are genuine and diligent about making changes in society, you already ARE a change maker!
Make your voice heard
The need is endless, and every small act of courage counts. Your courageous and exemplary act today could make the lives of many girls and women better tomorrow.
It is not possible for everyone to be a social reformer. But we can definitely bring small but significant changes in our outlook towards women’s rights and freedom.
Try to raise awareness and educate people about the negative socio-economic impact of gender discrimination. Help people come out of the bubble of cultural and religious values. Help them realize social customs like FGM, Dowry, child marriage etc. violate fundamental human rights!
Be an advocate of the causes you sincerely care about. It’s always helpful to have proper knowledge about the issues you are working on. Thus try to spend some time every day reading and learning about gender based issues. Furthermore, connect with like-minded people and groups working for women’s rights.
Don’t be Afraid
Making any changes means not following something which the society or culture expects us to follow. Going against one’s culture or community might involve a lot of risks and backlashes.
People will often hate you for trying to change what is ‘normal’. The battle could be very lonely and frustrating at times. You would need a lot of perseverance and motivation to stick to your fights.
Furthermore, changing social norms require the engagement of community, religious, and political leaders and could be a very slow process. But if you feel there are some ways you can make a difference, don’t wait for the world to agree with you.
Please share this post to help raise awareness about the gender gap and ways to reduce it.
(This post was first published in Oct, 2018 and updated again in 2020 with the latest data)