Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. Well before I dive into the topic let us understand a few basic things.
Biologically humans are divided into males and females. A male homo sapiens has an X and Y chromosome and a female has 2 X’s. But man and woman name—- social- not biological categories.
The cultural myths attached with man assign him particular roles like engaging in politics, driving a heavy vehicle, providing for the family, protecting them and so forth and similarly a woman is assigned with feminine roles like raising children, taking care of the home and family, cook meals. These are the roles that come attached with every man and woman right from birth.
To make things less complicated, scholars usually distinguished between sex, which is a biological category (male and female) and gender a cultural category (man and woman).
So, when we talk about gender equality, we refer to the cultural category and the right and privileges that the gender enjoys in their day-to-day life. Now that we understand this division, let me present a few insights on how we may move forward to establish Gender Equality-SDG 5.
Patriarchy has been a norm in almost all agricultural and industrial societies. The disparity between the two genders, in which one gender has been denied their basic rights like the right to education, right to vote, right to life with respect and dignity, right to pursue one’s dream, since time immemorial, has created such a huge gap, that it will take us decades to bridge. If we look at the present scenario, we can see ample examples of discrimination in varied forms, that take place inside the four walls of the house, at the workplace, in the streets – acts that degrade humanity in all aspects. Well, I don’t deny that men too have been subject to gender discrimination from time to time, and I quite believe that gender equality pertains to equal rights for both men and women without bias and reserves.
However, if I sit back to analyze – I find no theory or deductions that have been able to state any concrete reason as to what makes a woman weaker sex- Can it be that women lack muscle power and therefore is somehow lesser? Or is it that because women are less aggressive, more compassionate or is it possible that women are less able than their counterparts? But generally speaking, women are more resistant to hunger, diseases and live longer and healthier lives. In rural areas and construction sites, we see women engaged in manual labour. Women may lack aggression or the sense of innate competition- but are better in multitasking, management, and even planning. Women have performed better when given the platform and the scope. Therefore, there is no explanation so far that gives a logical answer to this bias that is witnessed towards one gender. Women are in fact the creators of humanity which makes them immensely powerful. Despite all of it, a large part of the world population continues to live with this discrimination owning it to their gender.
Whatever may be the underlying thought process, the truth is that Gender bias is undermining our social fabric and devalues all of us. It is not just a human rights issue; it is a tremendous waste of the world’s human potential. By denying women equal rights, we deny half the population a chance to live life to its fullest. Political, economic, and social equality for women will benefit all the world’s citizens.
I believe that the status of girls and women in the social fabric has improved over the years with the efforts of organizations that promote and fight for women rights, many individuals who have dedicated their lives to this goal, policies of the Govt to empower girls and women in all walks of life. Today we see women at the helm of organizations, multinational companies, in the military, politics, media, entertainment and education industry– as entrepreneurs and at the same time maintain work-life balance, …………..but then there is still a far way to go. By that…I am referring to those countries that still want to hold back a huge pool of human resources from performing only because they belong to a particular gender, where girls are not enrolled in schools, not given nutritious food, undergo a lot of mental, emotional and physical pain only to meet the norms of the social order, they are not allowed to roam freely, barred from enjoying their basic rights and many exterminated even at the foetus stage.
Virginia Woolf very right said- “The history of men’s opposition to women’s emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself.”
However, the wheel has started to turn slowly forging the way ahead towards gender equity. I am strongly of the opinion that formal education, equal job opportunities, reduced pay gaps, liberty in the home front, respect, love, empathy, financial independence – would enable us to inch our way forward to the SDG 5, however, I also feel that without proper awareness, emotional empowerment, handholding, with both men and women standing together to champion this goal, we would stand defeated. So now is the time to take action and set the wheel rolling.
Dr. Vasavvi Acharjya
Early Childhood Educationist, Edupreneur, M.D. Inner I Foundation Pvt. Ltd. and Tender Petals, Ex-Faculty TISS Guwahati, Founder Chairperson DNA Foundation for Children and Women Welfare and Early Child Development forum, Author, Awardee.