The double dividend
The double dividend of gender equality
The time is now. Eliminating gender discrimination will produce a double dividend, fulfilling the rights of women and going a long way towards realising those of children as well. With concerted efforts, real progress, based on respect, universal human rights and equal opportunities, can be made towards transforming discriminatory attitudes, behaviours, customs, laws, institutions and practices in society.
Ensuring that girls and boys have equal educational opportunities is one of the most powerful steps towards combating gender discrimination. Key actions include abolishing school fees, encouraging parents and communities to invest in girls’ education, and creating girl-friendly schools that are safe and without bias. School curricula must also impress upon teachers and students the importance of gender equality, and address male bias in the classroom. One way to help eliminate bias is to increase the number of female teachers in the classroom.
Focusing additional resources on achieving gender equality:
In addition to sound legislation, robust research and bold policies, equitable and efficient investment is central to eliminating gender discrimination and fulfilling the rights of women and children. Because gender equality cuts across all of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), assessing the cost of achieving MDG 3 – promoting gender equality and empowering women – has proved especially difficult. But getting the financing right is only the first step. Money must be put to the right use, and it must be integrated with existing government budgets and plans, as well as aligned with poverty reduction strategy papers and other planning processes.
Levelling the playing field in national legislation:
Legislative reform can be a powerful strategy of empowerment for women and girls and for the safeguarding of their rights. Comprehensive measures are required to prevent and respond to domestic violence and gender-based violence inheritance rights represent one of the most direct strategies for increasing women’s access to land and property. Most importantly, governments need to enforce the existing laws, address customary laws that discriminate against women and ensure equal access to justice and legal protection for women and children.
Quotas can encourage women’s participation in politics:
Quotas are a proven method of ensuring women break through the political glass ceiling. Overall, of the 20 countries in the world with the most women in parliament, 17 are using some form of quota system. To be truly effective, however, quotas must be supported by political parties and electoral systems that are committed to encouraging women’s participation in politics and government.
Women empowering women:
Grassroots women’s movements have been the most vocal champions of women’s equality and empowerment, but they are sometimes overlooked by national governments and international agencies. Involving women in the early stages of policy formulation helps ensure that programs are designed with the needs of women and children in mind.
Engaging men and boys:
Men can be powerful allies in the struggle for women’s equality. Advocacy initiatives designed to educate both women and men on the benefits of gender equality and joint decision-making can help nurture a more cooperative relationship between them. UNICEF’s experience shows that programs that encourage the participation of both men and women can help increase communication between the sexes and encourage a more even division of childcare responsibilities.
Improved research and data:
Although surveys such as the Demographic and Health Surveys and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys are effective vehicles to provide in-depth information on some aspects of the situation of women and girls, research and data in this area are sorely lacking. An overwhelming lack of sex-disaggregated statistics often results in scant or weak quantitative evidence on the issues that affect women and, in turn, children. Better and more extensive data and analysis are urgently required, particularly in the areas of maternal mortality, violence against women, education, employment, wages, unpaid work and time use, and participation in politics.
Effective partnerships, involving Government, NGOs, the private sector, and the media can support this process. For women, men, and for children, the time to refocus our efforts is now.