- Around two-thirds of developing countries have managed to achieve gender parity in primary education
- Women spend up to 5 hours on unpaid domestic work daily
- Women in most countries still face legal barriers that restrict their economic opportunity
The issue of gender inequality has been a major topic of discussion over the past two decades. Although the gender gap has improved since the 1990s, in 2018 there is no country where women have the same political and economic rights as men. Gender equality is still a myth.
I personally still can’t recover from the fact that Hilary Clinton lost the U.S presidential election to Trump. As unbelievable as that night was, I think it perfectly captures the predominantly patriarchal society we live in. A society where a significant proportion of citizens prefer to be governed by an incapable and irresponsible man rather than an overqualified and experienced woman.
The history of gender inequality is deeply embedded in tradition and culture. It has propagated a problematic belief that women have prescribed roles. This has led to a constant belittling of their worth and value to society and most importantly to themselves.
According to the UNDP, 70% of the world’s poorest people are women. This is because, in most countries, women are domesticated and subjected to play the role of “housewife” whose job is confined to the home. This naive way of thinking is primarily evident in developing countries where society demands that the woman takes care of the home and her children, while the man as the head of the family, works to earn a living.
Although it is widely acknowledged that biological differences exist between both sexes and this can result in different needs and capacities; these differences do not rationalize unequal rights and privileges.
Inequality encountered by females often begins at birth and in most cases, persists throughout their lives. In some countries, especially low-income countries, girls are denied basic amenities such as access to health care, clean water and adequate nutrition. These obstacles to proper well-being exposes them to diseases and leads to higher mortality rates. As these girls transition into adolescence, the gender gap widens. Child marriage is one of the key factors that prevent girls from reaching their full potential. A report by the United Nations highlighted that globally, over 14.2 million underage girls get married annually (around 37,000 each day).
Child marriage inevitably impacts the education of girls. The lack of education poses a huge barrier in enabling individuals to come out of poverty. This is one of the many reasons why a significant percentage of women are still living in impoverished conditions.
Poverty is Sexist
Gender inequality is a major impediment to economic growth and development as it restricts countries from attaining their maximum potential. Research shows that gender inequality, especially in education and the labour market, have negative effects on growth and development. This is because excluding women from the workforce decreases the amount of human capital available. With this sort of evidence, it is surprising that countries are not doing more to include women in the workplace. Although a vast number of qualified women are coming out of the educational system, several industries are still reluctant to hire, retain and promote them.
The discussion on gender is very broad and extensive and I cannot fully address the multiple dimensions in one post. However, I think the important message here is that an improvement in gender equality will lead to a rapid reduction in poverty and an increase in equitable growth. Gender inequality usually has a negative snowball effect and tackling this issue will visibly solve a plethora of underlying problems in society; both at an economic and social level. Everyone benefits when women succeed.
I can’t talk about gender without referring to the incredible Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. If you haven’t seen this video, I strongly recommend you do!