Why Gender Equality Is Everyone’s Issue

The United Nations is not a finished product. And perhaps it never will be. UN Women as the youngest entity of the United Nations is a good example for the continuing renewal of the UN. It was ‘born’ in 2010, bringing together resources and mandates of four previously distinct parts of the UN system. By creating this institution, the UN General Assembly established one entity to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women. Considering that not one single country on this planet has yet achieved gender equality, the task of UN Women is tremendous. Worldwide, women suffer violence and discrimination, face occupational segregation and gender wage gaps and are under-represented in political and economic decision-making processes. In fact, gender inequality is one of the most persistent human rights violations of our time.

UN Women takes on this challenge and is a strong champion for women and girls, basing its work on landmark agreements such as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Most recently, UN Women has launched its HeForShe campaign with the prominent support of the English actress Emma Watson. In the heart of the campaign lies the idea that gender equality is not only a women’s issue, it is a human rights issue that affects all of us – women and girls, men and boys. We all benefit socially, politically and economically from gender equality in our everyday lives. When women are empowered, the whole of humanity benefits. Gender equality liberates not only women but also men, from prescribed social roles and gender stereotypes. As Emma Watson put it in her speech that went viral: Men and boys should ‘have permission to be vulnerable and human too—reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so be a more true and complete version of themselves.´ Gender equality is not a question about men or women nor a fight between the sexes. Gender equality is a shared vision of human progress for all.

He For She

He For She

A country example shows how far we are still from a gender equal world: The Dominican Republic, a middle-sized state in the Caribbean, exemplifies the long, rocky road ahead. One in five Dominican adolescents has been pregnant at least once, the maternity mortality rate is almost double the projected Millennium Development Goals, the rate of intimate feminicides is one of the highest in the region, and every-day sexism is part of the social reality. UN Women has established a National Programme in this country which aims to change public policies, i.e. the structural framework, in order to accelerate the progress towards gender equality. However, the underlying challenge is to change mentalities and perceptions. Men who are socially pressured to ´be a man´, own as many women as possible, be the strong part in a relationship, the provider in a family, the ‘macho’ and ‘tigre’. Women who perceive their societal role as limited to birth-givers, care-takers and accessories of men. Public policies are an important starting point for accelerating the social transformation to a more equal society in which everyone can live a life free of stereotypes and prescribed gender roles. UN Women is working towards this change – unfortunately, like many UN entities, with very limited resources. Transforming politics and minds – as long as it might take – will eventually lead to a full realisation of human rights for everyone. This is worth all the efforts.

The badass or the victim?

Hostility fuels despair... and the other way around.  UN Photo/AFP.

Hostility fuels despair… and the other way around. UN Photo/AFP.

There are some problems, more or less recognized, with regard to the withdrawal clause of the article X of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, exemplified by the one case where a state has ever tried to use it. While, presumably, the state acted to protect its rights, it encountered major international opposition in the aftermath of this decision[1]. I see as the most fundamental problem the question of why would anyone agree to include such a clause in an agreement if in the ends its use is nonetheless condemned?[2] Further, why would anyone try to withdraw from the treaty by the use of this clause if the response they get is comparable to them just leaving with no justification attempts at all? Continue reading

Support for the World Cup, but not for interns?

At the end of March, it was announced that the United Nations are supporting Brazil in their effort to finish the stadiums they are building for the World Cup in 2014. The whole contract between Brazilian government and the United Nations is worth 17.6 million dollars. A lot of money that could be used for other things, like interns.

First of all, I am not against the World Cup in Brazil. I would love to go there, and I am sure it will be a huge sucess. However, the financial troubles, the corruption and huge waste of money are bothering not only me as the protests are showing and I am especially not agreeing with this kind of support the United Nations provides. Continue reading