“Gender Equality: A Fresh Perspective?” Not magic, just awareness…
Is gender equality yesterday’s issue in the Caribbean? Is “feminism” a bad word? Or is it the next generation’s issue?
Two recent, related initiatives indicate the global discussion of gender equality issues is becoming more inclusive by reaching out to men to support women’s rights and recognize challenges men and boys face.
After all, isn’t gender equality is about equality between women and men?
The first initiative, announced in July by Suriname and Iceland, is a year long campaign by the United Nations Friends Group to mark the 20th anniversary of the landmark U.N. conference on women in Beijing. The slogan of the campaign is “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it.”
Suriname’s Ambassador to the UN, Henry MacDonald, introduced the idea of a “Barbershop Conference” on violence against women. The all-male conference will aim to sensitize males to join the struggle to halt violence against women and girls once and for all.
The January 2015 conference will mark the first time the UN brings only men together to discuss gender equality. The unusual conference is part of a global campaign to involve 100,000 men and boys in the fight for gender equality.
The HeForShe campaign was launched at the UN in September by Emma Watson (actress in the Harry Potter movies and currently UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador). The campaign is designed to galvanize men and boys to be advocates for change.
Watson asked “How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?” She continues:
Men – Gender equality is your issue too…I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society…I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness unable to ask for help for fear it would make them look less “macho“… I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality either. We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes…
If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.
It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals. If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by what we are – we can all be freer.
Is it time for new, more inclusive conversations about equality?
As a leader, can you ensure that men and women have equal opportunities?
Do you see a rethinking of the ideas of gender equality by youth? Are they less constrained by stereotypes and social expectations?
Will gender equality allow each of us to be free to be ourselves?