March 30, 2018

Gender Equality

The following article was written by Emily Lin, Chapter Director at Cornell University, using data from the following sources: UNESCO, The Guardian, and The Peace Corps.

You are lying on several thin blankets on the floor of your bedroom deep in pain as you gasp for air, trying to suppress your desire to release your inner screams. It is a scorching hot mid-summer afternoon in June and your husband is outside discussing with a trader from right outside of town the sales of the chicken he had been raising. Your husband had told you to remain absolutely silent for the next hour or two in order to not “scare business away”.

And so, you lay there on your back—not on the bed, but the floor. You can’t afford to dirty the bed because you already have too many bruises and scars from your husband’s anger tantrums, so you collected some old sheets from the older ladies in the neighborhood. Your aunt sitting by your side, replacing the towel on your forehead with a new one every few minutes to cool you down.

Tears mixed with sweat streak your face as you look down at the bump on your stomach. It’s going to be over soon. You cry, and you pray to God that it’ll be a boy. A boy born into this world is free. He can grow up with an education, even just basic education. He can demand his wife to do whatever he wants her to do and punish her if she doesn’t obey without any negative repercussions. He takes all the profits of the family business, even if she does most of the work. He is not married off to a random family friend who has a decent house and reputation in town. He will never have to endure the pain of bearing a child at you. He is given a chance in this world.

Unfortunately, this girl you have been put in the shoes of represents the average girl in many developing countries all across the globe. Here are some statistics taken from various sources about some of the existing gender inequalities in the world:

Gender Equality StatisticsWhy should we care about the disparity between the experiences of men and women, especially in the developing world?

Firstly, gender inequality is the cause of many human rights violations such as child marriage and domestic abuse. Many societies still encourage the idea that women are inferior to men. In many poorer families, having a girl is a burden to the family. According to Girls Not Brides, marrying the girls off when they are still children alleviates the economic weight the family has to carry. The girl is now some other family’s responsibility, as if feeding their daughter is a chore. Existing gender inequality practices is also a way for patriarchal societies to exert immense control over half the population. By controlling female sexuality, societies force women to behave a certain way, to take responsibility over tasks men do not want to do, etc.

Furthermore, gender inequality limits the possible development and growth of any society. Because of pre-existing biases in favor of boys over girls, families tend to focus most of their resources on developing the sons and providing education and healthcare to the men of the house. Depriving the women of the household of education is one of the most negative restrictions a society can impose on itself. According to Anita Masaki, a project officer for the Forum of African Women Educationalists, “If a woman is educated, she plans her life, she plans her family, she educates her children and lifts her descendants out of poverty" (Carrington). This is especially true for developing nations in which the domestic role of women is more prominent than industrialized nations like the United States.

Although it is important for women to gain the freedom they deserve so that they can pursue their desired roles outside the household, it is important to understand the impact of education from within the household. Because women have a stronger biological tendency to interact with their children than men, they tend to have a greater influence on the earlier years of a child’s life. These years are crucial because they shape the child at the peak of their physical, mental, emotional, and moral development. Children are the future of the world and if they do not grow up with the right support, the world will never become a better place. Vocationally, educated women are more likely to be employed and to possess the skills of their desired line of work. In any nation, people who possess the skills of the work are more likely to be hired. Women in developing nations have traditionally been deprived of work opportunities because families tend to prioritize the sons’ education over the daughters.

So what can we do to eliminate gender inequality across the world? Besides spreading awareness about the existence of such gaps in experiences between the genders, it is reasonable to argue that one of the most impactful things we can do is target young girls and keep girls in school. "When you educate a woman, you educate a nation" - Kalunde (Carrington).

Many groups around the world are taking initiative to address women’s education around the world. The Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) is a NGO founded in 1992 to promote women and girls’ education in sub-Saharan Africa. They currently have 34 chapters in sub-Saharan Africa and they do a lot of advocacy and awareness work for women’s education as well as conducting research and implementing programs to keep girls in school. Another organization called Global Vision International (GVI) has many projects for gender equality amongst the other various projects they have focusing on topics such as Children’s Health and Environmental Sustainability. India is one of the nations GVI targets, working to put more girls in school as well as increase the retention rate of girls in school. Both of these organizations offer amazing opportunities that even you can use to volunteer and help improve gender equality if interested!