I love this month because it’s my sister’s birthday. I hate this month because it also means International Women’s Day on the 8th.
Let’s start with what we know. This year is the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (expanding on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the inalienable rights of women and girls) and the 15th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (women’s equal and full participation in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peacebuilding and peacekeeping).
Okay, let’s see how far we’ve come. A few years ago an INGO surveyed 4,000 children on three continents. In Rwanda and India, 65 percent of respondents totally or partially agreed with the statement ‘a woman should tolerate violence in order to keep her family together’. In India, 60 percent of respondents agreed ‘if resources are scarce it is better to educate a boy instead of a girl’. In one of the first comprehensive national surveys undertaken in Vietnam, one in three women reported being beaten by their husbands.
Yet Vietnam has a fairly advanced legal framework, which includes the Gender Equality Law, the Law on Domestic Violence Prevention and Control and related policies promoting gender equality and addressing domestic violence.
UN Women, no slouch in this department, advocates gender equality by getting the boys out. And the men, too. Too bad they’re running such a vapid and insulting campaign, HeForShe, fronted by a young, white, western-privileged celebrity. That’ll definitely get the patriarchy’s attention, won’t it?
Closer to Home
Okay, reality check. How about starting a little closer to home? How about in the home? This is where real change must start. If a boy sees his male relatives treating women and girls with respect, chances are he will too. If he sees contempt, abuse and violence… what do you think?
What I don’t understand is why this is news to anyone. Men’s use of violence or subjugation is part of a perverse affirmation of male norms and masculinity. So the key is primary prevention that shows the benefits of healthy relationships and the positive roles men play as fathers, role models and changemakers. Let’s create safe spaces for men and boys to deal with the violence they’ve experienced.
Gender equality will not be achieved unless men and boys (as well as women and girls) are persuaded of the importance of equal opportunities for all.
A colleague sent me a link to a story on Temple University’s Board of Trustees and the media mayhem about the Board repeatedly going to bat for Bill Cosby as he faces sexual assault allegations by 15 women. The press called up the Board Chairman, who responded by shouting into the phone, “I’m tired of this shit!” Is that so, Mr Patrick O’Connor?
You know what I’m tired of? I’m tired of the need to remind folks of some lame once-a-year ‘oh, and aren’t women great’ day for the global contributions they make. Each. And. Every. Single. Day. I’m tired that women — still — do not have full participatory citizenship and rights around the world.
But I was glad when Malala Yousafzai won a Nobel Peace Prize. I could hear the collective “Nooooooo!” shrieking from the wild-eyed misogynists.
C’mon boys: ‘There’s a train a-coming / You don’t need no baggage / Just a-get on board’.