Globally, gender inequality affects women and other genders socially, politically, and economically, restricting them in their societal roles and limiting their access to freedoms that men often are privileged to. The struggle for gender equality demands that the interests, needs, and priorities of all genders are considered, while being aware of the cultural diversity that exists within different groups of men, women, and non-binary people.
This is not exclusively a women’s issue but must fully engage all genders, because gender equity, or alternatively called feminism, is both a human rights issue and a precondition for sustainable development. Although this is an issue that affects all genders, gender equity is primarily framed in its relation to women.
Furthermore, despite the fact that women represent about half the world's population, they face rampant sexism, which leads to a higher morality rate for women, seeing as they have limited access to health care, a lower literary rate, due to an international lack of education for females, and a disproportionate rate of gendered violence.
The following videos provide more information about gender equality:
- Chimamanda Adichie's TEDTalk "We Should All Be Feminists"
- The United State of Women
- Michelle Obama's speech on International Women's Day
- Emma Watson interviews Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize Winner
- Elizabeth Nyamayaro's TEDTalk "An Invitation to Men Who Want a Better World for Women"
Universally, the social inequality that women must face, simply due to their gender, touches every part of their lives and threatens their safety, autonomy, and social status.
Worldwide, UN Women reports that 35% of females have suffered physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, or non-partner sexual violence. Even in the United States, 1 in 5 women are expected to report having been sexual assaulted at least once in their life. Also, about 133 million women in Africa and the Middle East have been subjected to a form of female genital mutilation or cutting; this practice, in particular, has high risk of prolonged bleeding, infection (including HIV), childbirth complications, infertility and death. There is no question that their safety and health is put on the line due to their gender.
Globally, about 15 million girls under age 18 are married every year, or close to 37,000 each day. In developing countries, in particular, the practice of marrying a girl off before the age of 15 and without her consent continues to be a source of concern and outrage, putting her health at risk, if she is to become pregnant, and taking away her right to her body.
In many countries, such as Saudia Arabia, women are considered second-class citizens, to the extent that they are prohibited from learning how to drive, or leaving their own home without a male supervisor. Similarly, in Yemen, women are not allowed to leave their house without their husband's permission. However, even in Western countries, women's basic human rights and the rights to their bodies are still routinely questioned, demonstrating the severity of social inequality worldwide.
The lack of representation and disproportionate amount of men to women in government proves the extent to which women face political inequality in both developed and undeveloped nations.
Globally, only 20% of lawmakers are women, which means that even decisions about women and their rights are made mainly by men. Furthermore, there are 38 countries in which women make up less than 10 per cent of parliamentarians in single or lower houses, including 4 chambers with no women at all. Also, as of January 2015, only 17 % of government ministers were women, with the majority involved in social sectors, such as education and the family. By forcing women into traditionally more feminine factions of government, we are simply perpetuating the idea that women only belong in these roles and can only be responsible for domestic issues.
In many countries, women are discouraged from voting or not even allowed to vote, such as in Saudia Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Vatican city. By not even permitting women a chance to participate in government, their voices are essentially silenced.
Worldwide, women are either excluded from the workforce, or underpaid for work they did that is equal to that of a man. However, this economic issue begins in the lack of education for women, paritcularly in developing countries.
In the US, the wage gap proves to be a very important issue in the struggle for gender equality, being that women make, on average, 80 cents to every man's dollar. Although, globally, women only make 60 to 70% of men's wages.
When women are in the workforce, they are not only paid less than their male counterparts, but also put in dangerous and vulnerable jobs, often often unprotected by labour legislation. Because women's jobs are often more vulnerable, they are putting their lives at risk as they struggle to support themselves and their families. In fact, it has been proven that, when women are being paid for their work, they always invest money back in their families, either for their children's health or education. In comparison to men, who are more likely to spend their money elsewhere, paying women fair wages directly creates stronger families and stronger communities.
Furthermore, UN Women reports that increasing women and girls’ education contributes to higher economic growth. In fact, increased education for both genders accounts for about 50 % of the economic growth in developing countries over the past 50 years, half of which is due to girls having access to higher education. Also, when a woman is given access to an education, she empowered and given the ability to support herself independently.
UN Women is the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. An international advocate for the rights of women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide.
UN Women is the global champion for gender equality, working to develop and uphold standards and create an environment in which every woman and girl can exercise her human rights and live up to her full potential. We are trusted partners for advocates and decision-makers from all walks of life, and a leader in the effort to achieve gender equality.