Global Womens Rights

UN Secretary-General Points to Gender Equality as Biggest Challenge

On Friday, before the observation of International Women’s Day, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asserted that gender equality is “the biggest human rights challenge we face” in the midst of men who abuse their power. Guterres added that he himself is a “proud feminist.”

A report by UN Women found that millions of women across the globe continue to experience poverty, violence, and discrimination; even 25 years after 189 countries adopted a 189-page road map to achieve gender equality. The report points to numbers that demonstrate the lag, such as how nearly half a million women and girls over the age of 15 are illiterate, or the fact that over 70 percent of lawmakers, parliamentarians, and managers are men.

The UN Development Program’s Gender Social Norms Index also reveals that nearly 90 percent of men and women are at least somewhat biased against women. About half of the world believes that men are more suitable political leaders, and about 28 percent believe it is acceptable for a husband to beat his wife, according to the index.

“Deep-rooted patriarchy and misogyny have created a yawning gender power gap in our economies, our political systems, our corporations, our societies and our culture,” Guterres said. “Women are still very frequently denied a voice; their opinions are ignored and their experience discounted.” Citing recent examples such as high-profile peace agreements and emergency health care meetings on the new coronavirus, the secretary-general said there are no or few women participating in leading critical issues.

Francoise Girard, president of the International Women’s Health Coalition, noted how critical it is for governments to be committed to reproductive rights and body autonomy. “Controlling your body — sexual and reproduction and free of violence — is critical to everything else,” she told The Associated Press. “It’s critical to education, to employment, to political participation, to sitting on boards of companies. All these things won’t happen unless you control your body.”

Sources: Politico, 3/8/20; UNDP, 2020.

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