Gender equality means equal visibility, empowerment, responsibility and participation for both women and men in all spheres of public and private life. It also means an equal access to and distribution of resources between women and men.
Although the legal status of women in some countries has undoubtedly improved during recent decades, effective equality is far from being a reality. Even if progress is visible (educational attainment, labor market participation and political representation), gender gaps persist in many areas, maintaining men in their traditional roles and constraining women’s opportunities to their fundamental rights and assert their agency.
The most pronounced expression of the uneven balance of power between women and men is violence against women, which are both a human rights violation and a major obstacle to gender equality. A change in gender relations, women’s empowerment and abolishing negative traditional gender stereotypes are the key to achieving gender equality and benefits the entire society, including men, and for the next generation.
Women have equal chances with men to be socially and politically active, economies and societies thrive. Overall, women’s more balanced participation in decision-making contributes to positive transformative processes for societies, such as changes in laws, policies, services, institutions, and social norms.
The essential contribution of women to communities, societies and economies, as well as the high costs of gender inequality need to be fully recognized, especially in the current context of economic crisis. Inequalities at all levels of society are on the rise. The crisis and the consequent austerity measures have hit women hard in many countries through job losses, pay cuts, reductions in public services and shrinking resources for vital support services to women who have suffered violence.
Discrimination against women has a structural and horizontal character that pervades all cultures and communities, as well as all sectors, levels and areas, throughout life. Gender inequalities tend to add up during the course of life, so that certain disadvantages experienced in earlier stages of life causing subsequent disadvantages in later stages by limiting options for choice. Women are often subjected to discrimination on several grounds.
Therefore, it is important to address discrimination against women in a systematic and comprehensive way, in order to achieve full and substantive gender equality. This calls for a dual-track approach to gender equality work which includes:
Specific policies and actions, including positive action when appropriate, in critical areas for the advancement of women and for gender equality;
The promotion, monitoring, coordination and evaluation of the process of gender mainstreaming in all policies and programs.
Achieving gender equality is central to the protection of human rights, the functioning of democracy, the respect for the rule of law, economic growth and competitiveness. However, Gender stereotyping presents a serious obstacle to the achievement of real gender equality and feeds into gender discrimination. It limits the development of the natural talents and abilities of boys and girls, women and men, their educational, professional experiences and life opportunities in general. Tackling the challenges, means focusing on:
Promoting Gender Equality Awareness; in particular through the development of training and communication initiatives targeting a broad range of professionals, with special attention to the prevention of all forms of violence against women;
Promoting and disseminating education syllabuses and teaching practices which are free from explicit and implicit gender stereotypes as well as the implementation of the other measures on gender mainstreaming in education;
Identifying practical measures to:
Abolish women’s image of inferiority and submission as well as stereotypes about men’s masculinity;
Further balanced participation of women and men in decision-making positions, in the media, in particular in management, programming and regulatory bodies;
Promote the role of men in achieving gender equality.
Rwandan Youth Forum
Terram Pacis Editorial
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