Girls are born with the same rights as boys, and that needs to matter; everywhere. Societies with greater gender equality enjoy more sustainable development, faster economic growth and better prospects for their children. Yet in many places, discrimination and violence against girls and women is still rampant. Girls and boys see gender inequality in their homes and communities every day — in textbooks, in the media and among the adults who care for them.
Parents may assume unequal responsibility for household work, with mothers bearing the brunt of caregiving and chores. The majority of low-skilled and underpaid community health workers who attend to children are also women, with limited opportunity for professional growth.
And in schools, many girls receive less support than boys to pursue the studies they choose. This happens for a variety of reasons: The safety, hygiene and sanitation needs of girls may be neglected, barring them from regularly attending class. Discriminatory teaching practices and education materials also produce gender gaps in learning and skills development
“Worldwide, nearly 1 in 4 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are neither employed nor in education or training — compared to 1 in 10 boys.”
But the onset of adolescence can bring significant barriers to girls’ well-being. Gender norms and discrimination heighten their risk of unwanted pregnancy, HIV and AIDS, and malnutrition. In its most insidious form, gender inequality turns violent. Some 1 in 20 girls between the ages of 15 and 19; 13 million of which have experienced sexual abuse. In times of both peace and conflict, adolescent girls face the highest risk of gender-based violence. Hundreds of millions of girls worldwide are still subjected to child marriage even though both have been internationally recognized as human rights violations.
Harmful gender norms are perpetuated at the highest levels. In some countries, they become entrenched in laws and policies that fail to uphold — or that even violate — girls’ rights, like laws that restrict women from inheriting property. Boys also suffer from gender norms: Social conceptions of masculinity can fuel child labor, gang violence, disengagement from school, and recruitment into armed groups.
It is heartbreaking to see millions of kids face this horrible misogynistic idea of sexism; but the good news is that, no matter what your gender, you absolutely can advance equality in your own life and influence others. Here’s how:
- Challenge gender stereotypes:
With all the progress we’ve made, we’re still bombarded with gender stereotypes. Just look at media, advertising, and pop culture. Think of the things people may have said to you that made you wonder — even cringe. It’s not always easy to challenge stereotypes in the moment. For most of us, it takes practice. Even if you need to think through a response, you can go back to someone and say, “I’ve been thinking about what you said and I’d like to share a different idea …”
- Model and promote healthy relationship skills:
Through violence prevention programs we support, teens learn about the marks of healthy relationships and the warning signs of abuse. They also get the chance to practice critical skills like setting boundaries, conflict resolution, assertive communication, and active listening. Couldn’t we all benefit from this, no matter our age? We can all practice and model these skills for our sake and for the sake of everyone in our lives.
- Build the culture of consent
A recent survey that was conducted found that, even after increased public discussions about violence, only 28 percent of people in Canada fully understand what giving and getting consent really means. The good news is that many agree that education is key to building stronger public understanding of consent. Consent isn’t only about sexual behavior — saying “yes” and “no” without pressure, or misunderstanding is a part of daily life.
- Promote Inclusive leadership
Women remain underrepresented in professional and political leadership roles. Systemic barriers and outdated ideas about what it means to be a leader still get in the way. Are there places you can promote a more inclusive vision of leadership? Do you have influence you can use to help bring under-heard voices to the center?
Being sexist isn’t only physical abuse. Even the little things, like rude comments and such have an impact. Sometimes, it’s done behind the scenes, like when you’re undermined in the workplace or at home. Even kids can experience it, maybe at school or with friends. Maybe in the media, where people display such unrealistic ideas of what it means to be a girl (or a boy.) Some examples of rude comments:
- That’s not very lady like
- That’s a man’s job, why don’t you let me do it?
- You need to smile more
- Have you gained weight?
Stereotypes play a big part in this. Being a girl would mean to be fair-skinned, extremely thin, emotional or dainty, weak, dumb, etc. Being a boy would mean to be muscular, strong, educated, the leader, emotionless. It’s time to break those stereotypes. A woman can be anyone she would want to be, same for a man. Stereotypes have been around the world for ages. Is it a really good thing though? Sometimes it just slips out, but that’s no excuse! Here are some ways to break gender stereotypes and spread awareness around your community:
- Be careful about what you say! Old phrases like “you run like a girl,” (meaning you run slow) is so outdated! A woman can run fast!! So, always mind what you say.
- Correct someone or educate someone if they are being sexist in any form. This is a world-wide movement, not only a woman’s fight!
3. Don’t go into extreme measures. Death threats, violent language, physical harm; it’s a step to much out of the line. There are better ways to deal with things.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can just be themselves.” -Gloria Steinem
I hope you learned a thing or two about gender equality today. It’s no small talk, and it’s still not recognized everywhere. So, next time someone tells you to be more manly or be more ladylike, you show them!