2007: Gender equality
The double dividend of gender equality
The State of the World’s Children 2007 examines the discrimination and disempowerment women face throughout their lives – and outlines what must be done to eliminate gender discrimination and empower women and girls.
It looks at the status of women today, discusses how gender equality will move all the Millennium Development Goals forward, and shows how investment in women’s rights will ultimately produce a double dividend: advancing the rights of both women and children.
The pernicious nature of gender inequality
Gender discrimination is pervasive. While the degrees and forms of inequality may vary, women and girls are deprived of equal access to resources, opportunities and political power in every region of the world. The oppression of girls and women can include the preference for sons over daughters, limited personal and professional choices for girls and women, the denial of basic human rights and outright gender-based violence.
Girls and women are frequently victims of physical and sexual violence inside and outside the home. Although such assaults are underreported because of the stigma of the crime, a recent multi-country study by the World Health Organisation revealed that between 15 per cent and 71 per cent of women had experienced physical or sexual assault from an intimate partner. Domestic violence is the most common form of violence perpetrated against women.
During armed conflict, rape and sexual assault are often used as weapons of war. When complex emergencies force people to be displaced from their homes, women and girls are at increased risk of violence, exploitation and abuse – sometimes from the very security personnel or other persons charged with their protection and safety.
As despicable as deliberate negligence or brutal violence can be, insidious gender inequality may be equally destructive. Institutional discrimination is harder to identify and rectify. Cultural traditions can perpetuate inequality and discrimination from generation to generation, as gender stereotypes remain accepted and unchallenged.
The unequal division of household labour, such as requiring girls and women to trek many kilometres to fetch water and firewood, or the uneven allocation of household resources, such as giving women and girls less food or medical care, are examples of more subtle forms of inequality. These ingrained forms of discrimination often keep individuals, families and societies trapped in poverty and undermine economic, political and social development.
If poverty is to become history, then gender inequality must first be eliminated. Bold initiatives and unflinching determination are required to end individual and institutional gender discrimination. Attitudes, customs and values that are detrimental to women and girls must be confronted. No history, legacy, religion or cultural tradition can justify inequality and disempowerment.
SOWC 2007 - Women in Malaysia Speak Out!