Needed: More women in power | Daily News

Needed: More women in power

Turkish women gather to celebrate International Women’s Day in Ankara on Sunday. - AFP
Turkish women gather to celebrate International Women’s Day in Ankara on Sunday. - AFP

Headlines from global summits have one thing in common: the overwhelming presence of men and few, if any, women taking centre stage in those photo ops. The glass ceiling for leadership roles remains thick and impenetrable to women.

Twenty-five years after the Beijing Declaration, a consensus of world leaders to accelerate women’s equality and broaden approaches to women’s issues, we have taken bold steps towards balancing the playing field, however a new report released on the cusp of International Women’s Day shows that it’s not just about policy, but about principle.

The UN Development Programme Gender Social Norms Index found that almost 90 percent of the world is biased against women. More than half of respondents said that men are better at leadership roles than women, and 40 percent said that men are better suited for politics.

This stark bias against women is profound and insidious, and prevents nations from unleashing the potential that women have to offer, particularly in decision-making roles.

Biases can be untangled. Structures can be modified. Inequality can be erased.

In Sri Lanka, women have seen dramatic development gains over the years. Today, Sri Lankan women have long life spans, inroads with education and health, and a high literacy rate. Yet power gaps persist.

The last parliament had only 12 women in the 225-seat legislative body, short of the global tally of one-quarter. However, the upcoming Parliamentary elections are an opportunity to increase women’s meaningful participation in public life.

Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality, calls for empowering women to enter traditionally male dominated spaces. A commitment by all political parties to harness the contribution of women provides an ideal opportunity for Sri Lanka to advance its development agenda with women in decision-making roles.

During his International Women’s Day remarks last week in New York, the UN Secretary-General said that when women are at the table, decisions tend to bring stability; when women are economists and Parliamentarians, policies tend to reinforce sustainable development that benefits more of the population.

Women and men belong at the same table whether that table is in the boardroom, the classroom, halls of justice or halls of parliament. Transformational change is possible.

And the run-up to the elections present the perfect time for women to engage, enter public life, dismantle bias, and watch development gains grow, because with diversity in representation comes diversity in policies.

We need more women in public and political life. We cannot afford to slide backwards. We must forge ahead with women’s equality and make this last decade for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals a Decade of Action and also a Decade of Equality.

Gender equality can be achieved in our lifetimes. It begins with a mindset shift and is supported by policy changes, enabling environments, and transformational change in all areas of life.

Inclusion matters. Representation matters.


Gender Equality benefits everyone

Twenty five years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action set out a clear path on how to achieve gender equality, the world has witnessed remarkable progress.

More girls are in school than ever before and more countries have reached gender parity in school enrolment.

Maternal mortality has fallen by 38 per cent between 2000 and 2017.

Over three quarters of countries now have legislation to tackle domestic violence.

However, the Report of the UN Secretary-General on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action points out that violence against women and girls remains pervasive.

And the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) ‘Tackling Social Norms: A game changer for gender inequalities’ study says that progress towards gender equality is, in fact, slowing. At present, only 14 per cent of women and 10 per cent of men worldwide have no gender social norm bias.

The glass ceiling is perhaps most apparent for women in areas that challenge “hard power”. In politics, men and women vote at similar rates, but less than one quarter of parliamentary seats globally are held by women.

This isn’t just a gender gap. It’s a power gap.

Indeed, new types of inequalities are rapidly emerging. Climate change has a disproportionate impact on women and girls while the digital gender divide is increasingly apparent.

Global protests from #MeToo to #UnVioladorEnTuCamino make it clear that it’s time for radical change and new solutions.

As we enter the Decade of Action for the Sustainable Development Goals, we must shatter longstanding biases and prejudices if we are to achieve gender equality. UNDP is working across the globe every day to ensure that this happens.

Last year alone, UNDP formed 74 new partnerships to address discriminatory gender and social norms.

The South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearing house for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons is changing perceptions of gender roles and advancing gender equality in the security sector reform sphere in the Western Balkans.

UNDP’s Transforming the Future of Work for Gender Equality initiative is being piloted in six countries in Asia and the Pacific to explore new innovations to address unpaid care and domestic work; explore skills in the context of the future of work; and advance new ways to advance gender equality in the workplace.

And the Spotlight Initiative – a global, a multi-year partnership between the United Nations and the European Union -- is working to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.

In line with the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action’s visionary agenda, UNDP will continue to work closely with the UN family, particularly UN Women, to help advance a new generation of innovative laws, policies and programmes to change discriminatory beliefs and practices in order to achieve gender equality.

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