- Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a
precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance. – Kofi Annan
There is a principle behind and beyond the words of Kofi Annan:
that effort towards eliminating any form of inequality must start and work in tandem with effort to overcome gender inequality.
We live in interesting times and there never was a time needier of united humanity than today. I was much moved by Emma Watson’s United Nations speech on gender equality.
She made me think again about this fundamental and hugely important humanitarian principle – “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities”. Emma approached this principle from the standpoint of feminism: “the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes . . . it is not the word (feminism) that is important, it's the idea and the ambition behind it.”
Inequality is any difference that may lead to disadvantage, however slight, experienced by an individual or group of people. In many instances, the complete elimination of inequality is not possible, through factors that are simply beyond human control. Complete elimination of inequality is often a fictional, utopian state. However, the word inequality used here refers to the practical circumstances where inequality can be diminished or eliminated by human thought and action.
There are two general types of inequality, one occurring when individuals or groups in the same or similar circumstances are treated differently and the other occurring when individuals or groups in different circumstances are treated the same way. Either of these inequalities results in a disadvantaged position for an individual or group.
Many barriers will be met in any attempt to achieve equality, to whatever aspect of humanity that equality applies. A lot can be controlled by human thought and action. However, for most people, there are many barriers that are extremely difficult to moderate or remove. Prejudice is one such a barrier.
Prejudice is a preconceived notion that is often the root cause of discrimination, committed either deliberately or unconsciously, in ways that can result in inequality. This happens specially when exercised by and within social groups. Such destructive partiality exists in individuals and is fostered in social groups throughout the world. It can exist in seemingly subtle ways that are nevertheless still expressions of prejudice or partiality. Gender partiality leads to gender inequality.
Emma Watson mentioned in her UN speech that gender inequality is a matter for men too. I post links here to two videos as examples of one aspect of gender partiality in relation to violence. They show recent social experiments on how bias can influence the actions of individuals among groups in certain situations.
Unmistakably, preconceived opinion about gender difference is a factor in how both men and women react differently according to the situations shown in the videos. They depict a measure of benevolent sexism that exists within societies everywhere. That aspect is among the many thousand manifestations of gender inequality that occur in societies throughout the world.
The horrific statistics presented by Plan International USA for the International Day of the Girl, 11 October 2014, puts into perspective the magnitude of inequality experienced by girls and women worldwide as a result of gender prejudice.
Over a period of half a century, affirmative actions taken to redress the recognised effects of gender prejudice in society have yielded limited success. Often, affirmative action made matters worse and tended to polarise opinion rather than consolidate desired principles. Emma Watson has told us “it is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals”.
The HeForShe movement is one that permits men and women to unite unashamedly and work towards the elimination of gender inequality. Please take this opportunity to visit the HeForShe site and register your support for this honourable cause.
HeForShe is a solidarity campaign founded by UN Women for gender equality.
- #BAD2014 #Inequality #BlogAction #HeForShe