Establish Gender Equality and Empower Women
Gender equality is a fundamental human right. The word “gender” depicts the society-constructed norms, roles and responsibilities deemed appropriate for men and women (Source). Gender equality signifies men and women having equal rights and opportunities of education, personal development and financial independence (Source).
On a global level, women have fewer opportunities to gain primary and secondary education as compared to men. They are also more exposed to the demons of societal pressure and safety risks. Even the political representation of women among countries across the world is sparse. Empowering women is essential for economic growth and social development. Utilizing the cranial capacities of women has known to take national growth rates to new heights.
Investing in women empowerment does not only positively impact the economic condition of a nation; it also contributes tremendously towards development and well being of families and communities at large. Giving women the opportunity to excel in life by means of provision of equal resources as men is critical for the growth of any society. Empowered girls have the capability to create a ripple effect that can contribute towards ensuring a healthy and productive family for generations altogether.
Helping to increase a woman’s decision making power, her control over her life within and outside her home, her access to opportunities of growth, her sense of self-worth and her ability to ignite change are all facets of women empowerment (Source). However, in order to trigger women empowerment, we cannot focus on women alone. On the contrary, the relationship between men and women needs to be focused upon. The attitude and actions of men play a pivotal role in achieving gender equality (Source).
Let us take a look at a few issues faced by women at the hands of the prevalent gender inequality and how we can contribute towards overcoming them:
Opportunities to attain education
The right to education is denied to several girls across the globe as they are forced to drop out from school owing to financial constraints, societal norms, child marriage and many other unjustified reasons (Source). About one-fourth of girls living in developing countries do not attend school at all. Families with limited sources of income cut down on household expenses by making the girls of the house sacrifice their education. Priority is given to the education of the boys in the family (Source). Another reason for the same is that families often rely on girls for carrying out household chores like cooking, washing and cleaning which leaves them with little or no time for school.
However, what we often fail to realize is that educating girls can have a great return on investment as they would then be more likely to postpone marriage, have fewer and healthier children and also send them to school. They would also be equipped with the skills to earn an income and be more confident participants in household and work-related discussions. Education also ensures that they are aware of STDs like HIV and how to prevent them, thus securing a better and risk-free future for them.
a. Spreading awareness
In order to promote education among the lesser privileged stratum of society, it is crucial for us to help them understand the significance of education. A lot of times, in households where several generations have been illiterate, senior members of the family fail to realize the importance of education and how it can positively impact the lives of their subsequent generations.
Therefore, I will make an attempt to spread awareness about how education has the power to enrich the lives of those who I interact with on a regular basis. Talking to all those associated with me, including my servants, the watchman at the University Gate, the gardeners, sweepers, bell boys etc. about why they must send their daughters to school shall be my first small step towards helping empower women. I will also encourage my friends and peers to do the same.
b. Educating those around
Charity begins at home, they say. So does any kind of an initiative. I realize that contributing towards women empowerment and educating the girl child on a global level may not seem feasible at the moment. However, a tiny step towards driving the initiative can improve the life of a girl child and even inspire others to do the same. A few months ago, I enquired with my maid about which school her daughter attended. She replied that they could not send their daughter to school as they already had to bear the school fee and other expenses for two sons.
The situation felt unfair to me and thus I decided to teach her daughter, Jaya, during my free hours. Each time Jaya came to our house to clean utensils and the house, I would teach Jaya a lesson from English, Mathematics or Science. She had a sharp acumen and picked up quickly. One day, she recited a poem to her parents in English. Her overjoyed parents now saw the potential in her and decided to send her to school. Today, Jaya is a student of the 6th grade and is doing well in class.
Gender inequality and lack of women empowerment happens to be a global issue
c. Sponsor a child’s education
Several organizations across the globe permit citizens like you and me to sponsor a girl child. The primary reason why girls are deprived from education is lack of monetary resources. Organizations like children.org permit you to sponsor a girl child’s education by investing small amounts of money on a monthly basis. Some other websites that enable you to do the same are plan-uk.org, invisiblegirlproject.org and worldvision.org. They share the progress reports of the child you sponsor, so that you can keep track of the same. Some of these organizations also let you meet the child that you sponsor once in a year.
By committing to sponsor a child’s education, I wish to contribute my bit towards ensuring a better and safer future for girls. I will also educate my peers and family members about the same. If all of us pledge to contribute towards sponsoring the education of one girl child, imagine how much of a better place this world would become to live in.
d. Organize donation camps
We know that a large number of girls are unable to attend school due to the poor financial conditions in their homes. Not everyone can afford quality education for their children. School fee, cost of stationary items, uniforms, travel costs and several other expenses are associated with sending one’s offspring to school. Therefore, one way to reduce the burden on such families is to donate books, school bags, tiffin boxes, uniforms and stationary items that we no longer require.
I propose to set up a monthly donation camp in the university where students can donate whatever they can to help the girls in the nearby village attend school. A group of students can then go and donate all the items to the villagers and encourage them to send their daughters to school. This would give the parents of these girls the necessary push to let them stand up on their own feet and give them a chance at being independent.
Volunteering to teach underprivileged girls after college hours is another way in which students can contribute towards educating the girl child. A fixed number of hours dedicated to teaching these girls each week can go a long way in encouraging their families to let them pursue education. Several volunteer programs enable you to look up teaching volunteer jobs near you and enroll yourself into it. I propose that a student committee be made in which students interested in volunteering to teach girls can enroll themselves. This way, a small group of students will be able to create a big impact on the lives of many.
Women’s health and safety
After illiteracy, another grave concern that that contributes to gender inequality is the health and safety of women. Because women do not get adequate opportunities of attaining education, they are prone to falling prey to sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS, primarily due to lack of awareness (Source). Other reasons why women could possibly contract such diseases are gender based violence and unequal power in sexual relationships.
No provision of health camps for women results in other serious health concerns among them. Also, the risk of contracting diseases and infections is relatively higher post-partum (Source). Therefore maternal health becomes an area of grave concern in the absence of adequate healthcare facilities. This is especially true in nations where girls are made to get married well before they even turn 18.
Gender inequality and lack of women empowerment happens to be a global issue
a. Maternal healthcare
A study reveals that if a girl is given six years of education, as an adult her childbirth survival rates increase dramatically as she is well aware of prenatal and postnatal care (Source). Therefore, I propose to form a volunteer group that visits the villages on the suburbs and educates women on postnatal and prenatal care. Information on the kind of foods to be consumed or avoided during pregnancy must be shared through brochures and pamphlets. Distribution of necessary vaccines through a vaccine camp for children must be conducted.
Women expecting to conceive must be provided with micronutrients, health supplements and mosquito repellants to fight malaria. A helpline number must be shared with the women of the village, on which they can call and ask about all queries related to giving birth to a healthy child and taking care of its health thereafter.
b. Dietary aid
Early years are critical for a child’s physical as well as mental development. Skills such as social competence, the ability to learn and think, language acquisition etc. all develop and get honed during the formative years of a child’s lifespan (Source). In the absence of proper nutrition and health care, the child’s potential remains untapped and he is unable to lead a productive life. Owing to large scale gender bias in several parts of the world, girls are often at the receiving end of a bad diet and little or no access to means of healthcare.
You would be surprised to know that if we lived in a world of free of gender discrimination against women, there would be 60-100 million more women alive today (Source). Therefore, in order to curb malnutrition among girl children, I propose to prepare diet charts for them and explain to their parents how proper nutrition will aid their overall development. Tying up with nearby hospitals to organize regular health checkups could be another way of ensuring a community free of infections and diseases.
c. Sex education
In a few countries of the developing world, prevalence of HIV among teenage girls is five times as compared to that among teenage boys (Source). The risk of contracting the disease is highest among poverty-stricken, illiterate and least powerful girl children who have been orphaned. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to make the required information accessible to such children, so that they are able to prevent contracting STDs. A sex education drive must be conducted in orphanages to ensure that girls are well aware about the reasons for spreading of STDs and also about ways to prevent the same.
Underprivileged girls must also be taught the difference between good touch and bad touch, as many innocent girls fall prey to heinous crimes due to lack of knowledge about sex. I also propose that the girls in orphanages and nearby villages be counseled on safe sex and condoms be provided to them. The helpline number of a female counselor should be made available to them so that they can open up with her and clear their misconceptions about sex and sexually transmitted diseases.
d. Girl child protection
Several million girls are abused, sexually harassed and exploited each year. They are abducted from their schools or homes and then trafficked to be sexually exploited and lead excruciatingly painful lives. A lot of times, girls suffer at the hands of their own malicious friends or relatives. Being forced to marry, succumb to sexual demands, undergo genital mutilation etc. are all criminal acts and can be reported against. However, not all girls are aware of who to contact in the unfortunate event of such a happening.
Therefore, I propose that a camp be set up in the University, nearby villages, orphanages and other parts of the city to help girls understand how to tackle such a situation. The information can be shared through an act of drama, which leaves the girls with a message to remember in the end. They need to be taught that suffering in silence is also a crime, and therefore, they must know their rights and fight for the same.
e. Access to sanitation and clean water
A survey reveals that out of a 100 households in developing countries, only 58 will have adequate sanitation facilities while 83 will have access to clean drinking water (Source). In other households where there is no provision of safe drinking water, the girls of the house are often made to walk for several kilometers to fetch water from wells. As a result, these girls are deprived of going to school. A lot of times, parents refrain from sending their daughters to school due to lack of proper sanitation facilities there. Therefore, installing hand pumps or other means of provision of safe drinking water and sanitation facilities in schools becomes a must.
Gender inequality and lack of women empowerment happens to be a global issue. However, as a responsible human being, it is the responsibility of each one of us walking the face of this planet, to contribute our bit towards ensuring a better future for women. The impact made by a single person’s contribution may not be huge; therefore, collective effort is required. Let us all pledge to safeguard the rights of women and treat them as equals in all spheres of life. Be it in school, college or at the workplace, women must be given equal opportunities to grow and excel. We need to ensure an inclusive environment that promotes and encourages women to come out of their houses and compete with men in all fields.
There are several advantages associated with a society that comprises of competent women. Apart from the obvious economic benefits associated with a larger working female population, women empowerment also results in the holistic development of society. Educated women stand up for their rights and bear less tolerance to domestic violence and other societal menaces. They are more aware of their surroundings and therefore more capable of acting as responsible citizens of a country.
Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America rightly said that when women succeed; nations tend to be more prosperous, safe and secure. We have witnessed examples of women leading industries and nations, then why do we still doubt their potential? If given wings, women have the capability to fly and reach great heights. All that is required of us is to give them as much support as we extend to the men.