The International Day of the Girl: Keys for Achieving Equality

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*Guest Post by UBC Student Ambassador, Karina Hsaio*

The Sustainable Development Agenda was created in 2016. This agenda introduced 17 different goals which are used as directives to eradicate global poverty. One of the crucial goals included is the need to achieve gender equality. International Day of the Girl is an important annual event that acknowledges the issue of gender inequality, promotes the empowerment of both women and men, and most importantly brings communities together.

Currently no country has successfully achieved gender equality; without the proper framework and policy implementations, women are made vulnerable to violence and discrimination. Countries also lack the relevant policies to prevent discrimination in the workplace, therefore women are still being treated unequally. Women worldwide earn less than men, for every dollar earned by men women earn 23 cents less. In politics, women represent a minority in national parliaments. When women’s contributions in the workplace are not valued equally, they are discouraged from entering the labour market or pursuing professional careers. Moreover, politics has long been viewed as a male profession; thus, without the participation of women, not only will this sector remain male dominated, policies related to the rights women will also lack the nuance necessary to achieve genuine equality.

BzmjOzbIIAAzJgY.png_large-500x500Education is one tool we can use to eradicate poverty and the problem of sexual violence. Women easily fall into the cycle of poverty due to lack of education qualifications. Without the equivalent skillsets required by the labour market, these women have limited choices when it comes to employment, and usually end up in temporary jobs. Not only are temporary jobs unstable, they also pay lower wages. Allowing women to participate in the market through stable employment will increase labour efficiency in companies; it allows the economy of a country to grow faster and stronger. Most importantly, a high percentage of women will be lifted from poverty.

The inability to secure permanent employment is one of the main reasons that women continue to rely on their husbands for financial support. Additionally, if the wife is also a victim of domestic abuse she may decide to remain silent for fear of financial insecurity. Educated women are employable women, and employable women are independent women.

But the empowerment of women and girls is insufficient for socio-cultural change – men and boys also need to be part of the conversation. Communities need to acknowledge the fact that gender equality is a fundamental human right. Men and boys are important actors in process of achieving gender equality because gender equality affects everyone.

When men and women are viewed as equal, the labour market will have a greater chance of achieving equal pay. Healthy relationships between both genders can only be achieved if mutual respect is developed. It is important to remember that the push towards societal change in gender equality does not mean pinpointing a specific culprit. Numerous factors contribute to creation of gender inequality, and it is the responsibility of the whole community to correct gender stereotypes and unfair behavior.

Other than promoting gender equality through the discussions in UN general assembly and hosting annual events like International Day of the Girl, the United Nations also promotes gender equality at the local level. To enable relevant skill development, UN Women supports computer training programs in South Sudan and India. Economic empowerment is promoted by encouraging women to start their own businesses. For example, in a Guatemalan village, women who were part of the indigenous community were encouraged to participate in an all-female entrepreneurship project. Through education empowerment women were given the relevant skillsets needed to participate in local elections, thus enabling them to participate in decision making.

The issue of gender equality has received high levels of attention internationally, and the United Nations serves as a vital platform for leaders and organizations to continue this work. However, changes can only be achieved if local and international entities improve and work alongside each other. On the international level, countries need to recognize gender equality as a basic human right and promote changes within their own administrations. Individuals and local organizations need to work together and ensure durable changes at the local level. Communities need to embrace the values of gender equality by improving access to education and through policy implementations. 

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Education: An essential goal for all

unacto1This week university students in Vancouver will be returning to their studies. The importance of education and scholarship for individuals, and for society as a whole, cannot be overemphasized. Regrettably, we will not be seeing the return of our city’s children to the classroom this week. This has brought many parents and teachers much frustration throughout the past several weeks.

Readers are well-accustomed to the value of education. Education serves as a foundation for human capacity building at the individual level; shaping personalities and interests, building confidence and providing knowledge and skills. Education is critical to success at the state-level too, by providing intelligent and trained workers to both the public and private sectors, ultimately contributing to improved levels of human development.

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 7.32.10 PMOf the over 100 million children not in school, more than half are girls. Equal access for girls has been a priority on the UN agenda since the 2000 Millennium Development Goals. October 11th is International Day of the Girl Child. One of the greatest ways to celebrate and encourage the girl child is to provide her with quality education. Education empowers girls and gives them a voice, “Education is the pathway to gender equality.” Importantly, education provides women with social mobility and an opportunity to escape poverty.

Critical to this realization and the current global focus on gender equality and the Girl Child, is the feminist perspective. The notion that women have been marginalized throughout history, and continue to face inequality is often only first discussed in depth at the university level. Post-secondary education (which interestingly can have a greater percentage of female scholars) however, is not always a reality for all.

Next week the UNA Vancouver will be hosting “Inequality and Rights: A Feminist Perspective” at Simon Fraser University, Harbour Centre, a conference led by female scholars and professionals in the Vancouver region.

As we approach the Post- 2015 Development period, we must not only continue to work towards equal access to education globally, but also continue to strive for an innovative and strategic educational framework for the children here in Vancouver.

This means developing goal-orientated students who know that setting goals works not only at the micro, individual level, but also in a large-scale, international context. It means teaching feminist perspectives at an early age, and setting a new educational standard for the children of our future.

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 7.35.09 PMFor an in-depth understanding of gender equality in education globally, from the primary to upper levels, please see: World Atlas of Gender Equality in Education (UNESCO Publishing, 2012) http://www.uis.unesco.org/Education/Documents/unesco-world-atlas-gender-education-2012.pdf

 

Post written by UNAC-Vancouver website writer: Brittney Potvin.

UN Secretary-General: Message for the Girl Child

Please read the Secretary-General’s message for the International Day of the Girl Child.

Girls face discrimination, violence and abuse every day across the world.  This alarming reality underpins the International Day of the Girl Child, a new global observance to highlight the importance of empowering girls and ensuring their human rights.

Investing in girls is a moral imperative — a matter of basic justice and equality.  It is an obligation under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  It is also critical for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, advancing economic growth and building peaceful, cohesive societies. 

For this inaugural day, the United Nations is focusing on the issue of child marriage.  Globally, around one in three young women aged 20 to 24 — approximately 70 million — were married before the age of 18.  Despite a decline in the overall proportion of child brides in the last 30 years, the challenge persists, particularly in rural areas and among the poorest.  If present trends continue, the number of girls who will marry by their 18th birthday will climb towards 150 million in the next decade.

Click on the link at the top to continue reading.