What is gender equality?
Gender equality is the state of equal access to resources and opportunities regardless of gender, across all sectors of society, including economic participation and decision-making. It also involves valuing different behaviours, aspirations and needs of women and men equally.
Why is it important to promote gender equality?
Gender equality is important to uphold as it is a human right. It allows every individual to be treated with due dignity and respect regardless of gender. It paves the way for a fairer, more equal society. Additionally, it has an intersectional benefit, as societies and states with higher levels of gender equality are more likely to uphold the rights of other vulnerable groups, have greater respect for the rights of individual, and have less conflict.
How do we protect gender equality?
Effectively ensuring women’s human rights requires, firstly, a comprehensive understanding of the social structures and power relations that frame not only laws and politics, but also the economy, social dynamics and family and community life. Harmful gender stereotypes must be dismantled so that women are no longer viewed in the light of what women ‘should’ do and are instead seen for who they are: unique individuals, with their own needs and desires (United Nations Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner).
To protect gender equality at an individual level, we can learn about how gender inequality manifests at social, political, economic, cultural, familial, and individual levels. This helps us to identify more clearly instances of sexism. We can thus confront sexism when we see it, be it in the workspace, at home, at social gatherings, or elsewhere. We can also contribute to projects, organisations, and campaigns that promote gender equality and/or tackle all inequalities prevalent in society. These can include political action groups, women’s shelters, sexual abuse clinics, NGO’s, or arts organisations with a social agenda. Through these, we can get involved in campaigns that may result in a heightened awareness of, or a reduction in, sexism in society, as well as actual political or social change. Perhaps most importantly, we should be supportive, respectful, and compassionate to the women in their life, as they should be towards everybody. Listening closely to women’s experiences of sexism, supporting those who have been hurt by it, amplifying women’s voices, and stamping down on instances of sexism can all help.
Over many decades, the United Nations has made significant progress in advancing gender equality, including through landmark agreements such as the Beijing Platform for Action and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Gender equality is not only a basic human right, but its achievement has enormous socio-economic ramifications. Empowering women fuels thriving economies, spurring productivity and growth. Yet gender inequalities remain deeply entrenched in every society. Women lack access to decent work and face occupational segregation and gender wage gaps. They are too often denied access to basic education and health care. Women in all parts of the world suffer violence and discrimination, and are under-represented in political and economic decision-making processes (Gender Equality in Ireland).
Within the EU (following the Treaty of Amsterdam 1999), equality between men and women was recognised as a principle and key priority of the European Union and is reflected in a prohibition of any discrimination on account of sex and the introduction of the gender mainstreaming concept (Smashing Times’ Women War and Peace Book).
Please find at this link an article that formed part of Smashing Times’ Women War and Peace Book, titled ‘Human Rights and Gender Equality’ by Edyta Pietrzak and Inga Kuzma.