The Race to Gender Equality is the blog that I contributed to Asia Safe Abortion Partnership under the blog post by Youth Champion for “Engaging Men on issues of Reproductive Health and Violence against Women” on the occasion of “Global Symposium on engaging men happening in Nov and 16 days of activism”. You can read the original blog here.
Now the word gender, gender roles and gender equality is not unknown to all. Even a layperson understands what these words stand for. But it is a different matter that people do not want to realize the meaning of the words, change it into their attitude and behavior, implement in their programs and stand up what these words represent. The reason U say this is because “Gender, Gender roles and Gender Equality” have been limited to conference agreements, into papers, course curricula and government strategy plans.
If I am wrong, please do correct me.
The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in Cairo, as well as the Conference for Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) held in Beijing linked the rights of men and women to the gender-related values and norms that determine people’s well-being. Despite this till now women are fighting for their rights. In this blog “rights” refer to right to be free from any kind of violence. I guess you guys have heard of sexual harassment, rape, sexual abuse, street harassment, workplace violence, female genital mutilation, honor killing, marital rape, etc.
So many conference agreements and decision have made many proposals in the area of women’s empowerment but there are many challenges to translate human rights based approach into developmental programs.
In our society women still do not have the power to take decisions about their own body, choose their life partner, use contraceptives, access healthcare services and many more critical areas of life. In Nepal “Gender Equality” has been understood as “Women’s issue”. But it is universal truth that women cannot achieve gender equality and sexual and reproductive health without the cooperation and participation of men.
When I was in my schooling, I had to write an essay on “Women and Men are equal”. My teacher used to teach us “Women and Men are two sides of same coin. Women and Men are wheels of a Chariot.” This means women and men are equal and important parts of a coin, without which coin is valueless. But it took me many years to get respect from my male friends in school and college.
Now I work in NGO and had to travel on local bus. Everyone who is reading this blog might have experience public transportation sexual abuse. It is another universal truth “1 out of 3 women has been abused during her lifetime”. Since I have to travel by public transport, I regukarky face this sexual abuse by male passenger, sometimes by driver and sometimes by his assistance. But when I shared this with my family and requested to pick me from my office I heard “Dear, it’s natural and common among young girls”. Recently I had conversation with my cousin. He said “di, you and other girls talk about gender equality. But you ask for reservation seats in public transport. If you are talking about equality, you should also have strength to stand and travel on a bus.”
So, I realize that people are studying for higher degrees only for attempting exams. Behavior and attitude change and transformation are still a question.
I do not know about others but I do still live in a Patriarchal society. I am mostly surrounded by male members of the society. I am the first girl in my family who has been doing her Master Degree. I love my subject- Gender Studies, but as I started to analyze gender inequality within my family and society and became to be vocal and take my own decision, I have been quoted as “Feminist”. But people who gave this prestigious do not know what the term stands for or that I love to be called as Feminist!
Men have that privilege to take their decision, have access, opportunities and choice for many resources. In a family, decision depends upon men. Why cannot men take this advantage and involve if gender equality is to be achieved?