(This article is contributed by Natasha Mudhar, a UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) campaigner for gender equality and Founder of The World We Want - a social impact enterprise that aims to accelerate achievement of the SDGs.)
Upon entering a new decade, there are now just ten years left to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. Five years since the launch of the SDGs at the UN General Assembly, the world appears to have fallen short of attaining the goals. This decade has therefore been branded as the Decade of Action and Delivery for Sustainable Development.
It is high time we find sustainable solutions to challenges ranging from poverty and climate change to gender inequality and economic gap. In fact, one of the biggest challenges in the attainment of the Global Goals is the fact that no country in the world is on track to achieve gender equality by 2030.
As long as gender inequality exists, we are no closer to reaching our SDGs goals, as 13 of the 17 Global Goals require the full integration of gender equality to achieve their targets. That’s why this needs to be a decade for equality.
Theme of Equality
For as long as we can remember, women have been discriminated against in all parts of the world. Whether it was through child marriage, domestic violence, or non-existent voting rights, women as a collective have struggled hard. Despite the many efforts over the years to bridge the gap between the sexes, we remain far away from reaching gender equality in our personal and professional lives.
The UN has proclaimed 8th March 2020 as International Women’s Day to forge a gender equal world and raise awareness against bias whilst celebrating the achievements of women. There is no denial that the world cannot be saved without women. The theme for this year is #EachforEqual drawing from the premise that an equal world is an enabled world.
Equality means different things for different people; gender equality entails regarding women not as special but as individuals at par with men.
The manifestations of gender inequality are wide ranging and profound, starting from denial of education and healthcare to discrimination in employment and wages for women, compared to men. Gender inequality at workplaces is so deeply embedded that the World Economic Forum estimates that it will take another 202 years to close the economic gender gap at the current pace of change.
Diversity within workplaces fosters creativity and productivity. In addition, an equal environment makes employees feel comfortable and secure in their jobs. However, more businesses need to understand the value that women bring to the table, ensuring that women get equal representation in boardrooms and equal pay for equal work.
In recent times, there have been examples of progress, with women making extensive efforts to address the issue of unequal pay. For example, the BBC’s Sarah Montague was awarded a £400,000 settlement and an apology from the company after filing a complaint about unequal pay and conditions. She was paid around £500,000 less than her BBC Radio 4 co-host John Humphrys, despite doing the same job. Although the BBC is likely to face more cases in the future, the development is an early sign of the right steps being taken to ensure widespread change.
The IWD 2020 campaign #EachforEqual draws from a notion of 'Collective Individualism’. As a small part of a larger whole, individual actions, conversations and behaviour can have an impact on the society overall. When we strive for equal representation in all spheres - including businesses, sports, culture, literature and media- we strive towards the greater goal of a gender equal world. As we look for ways to destabilize the status quo that accords supremacy to men, we enable economies and communities to thrive.
While addressing gender inequality, we often make it a women’s only agenda and tend to overlook the contribution of men to this movement. De-stigmatising the secondary role of women in society can be successfully done through popular culture, as have been done by films like Thappad and Mission Mangal.
Women not only need to challenge stereotypes, fight biases, and broaden perceptions, but also challenge the patriarchal construct of the society. This is the only way we can attain gender equality in the truest sense.
(Edited by Athira Nair)