The major problems that need to be resolved in order to achieve the goal of gender equality are multi-faceted and are often truly engrained in cultures all over the world. In short, those problems are (UNWomen, 2017):
- Gender discrimination;
- Violence against women including trafficking and sexual exploitation;
- Child marriage and female genital mutilation practices;
- Uneven burden of unpaid domestic work and unequal pay in the workforce;
- Unequal political representation and opportunity;
- Lack of universal access to sexual & reproductive health;
- Unequal access to education, technology and by extension, employment;
- Harmful laws that constrict women’s and girl’s rights;
- Unconscious biases that form barriers to equal opportunities;
- Gender equality is not recognised in every nation’s constitution.
Women have less than 25% of parliamentary seats worldwide (UNWomen 2017).
Twenty percent of women (15-49) have experienced physical or sexual violence from a partner and 214 million women in developing nations do not have access to reliable family planning tools (UNWomen 2017; UNPF 2017).
UNWomen (2017) says women’s dominant role in caring for the young and elderly limits their economic potential; women worldwide make 77 cents in the dollar for that earned by men.
In Australia, 50% of expectant/new mothers experienced pregnancy-related discrimination, and women dis-proportionally act as primary carers for children with disability and parents while spending twice as many hours per week looking after children as fathers (AHRC 2014). Domestic violence is the leading preventable cause of mortality and morbidity in women 15-44 years old (AHRC 2014).
Many of these problems restrict women’s ability to achieve economic independence meaning they cannot make true choices about the governance of their own lives (European Commission 2010).
The empowerment and emboldening of women has a multiplier effect, fundamental for economic growth and development (UNDP 2017). In fact, ‘Gender equality contributes to poverty reduction, results in higher levels of human capital for future generations, and improves the development effectiveness of public investments’ (IADB 2017).
Continued on the next page – Role of Leadership.