At the outset, as was to be expected, Dr Ghosh, before broaching the topic of the lecture, took pains to enlighten the audience about the concept of ‘Gender’ as opposed to ‘Sex’. ‘Gender’, she emphasised, is not a biological term as in male or female, but a concept wherein socially constructed roles and responsibilities are assigned to male/female/non-conforming people by society, culture and environment where one lives. And, this discrimination begins even before birth.
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‘Gender Mainstreaming’, she explained, is a global strategy to level the playing field, an attempt to equalise opportunities irrespective of various differentiators among people, the markers of which could be gender, religion, social class, caste, sexual orientation, physical or mental challenges, language, etc. The ultimate goal of this strategy is to achieve gender equality.
While emphasising that women continue to be the worst sufferers of gender inequality, Dr Ghosh reeled out global data to buttress her point. Even after 25 years of endorsing gender mainstreaming as a critical and strategic approach for achieving gender equality commitments, women are still left far behind in many sectors.
She informed that countries with less gender equality have poor economic performance and are less developed. Societies that treat women badly are poorer and less stable. Improving gender equality is good for all because it creates fairer and more peaceful societies, she asserted.
Harping on the subject of ‘missing women’ (females that were never allowed to be born), she said though current estimates put the number of women missing globally at 130 million, the problem is most pronounced in South Asia and China because of the preference for male child.
Giving an example of status of women’s education in India, the international educationist informed that though between 2015 and 2020 the number of women enrolled in higher education increased by almost a fifth, female participation in the workforce in the country remains dismally low (only 7% of urban Indian women have paid jobs). This, she reasoned, was because in most cases the educational courses they pursue are not job-oriented.
Advocating clear cut vision, policy and goals to achieve gender balance society in light of international commitments towards ensuring equity in education by policy makers, Dr Ghosh said there is also a need to establish institutional arrangements to support gender mainstreaming such as gender units and gender focal points system.
Further, at a programme level, gender mainstreaming can be applied based on a few steps, including gender analysis, programme design, resource allocation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, she added.
Sharing Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote “Legislation cannot change the hearts of the people, but it can restrain the heartless”, Dr Gosh averred that eventually it is the attitudes - at the political, social and individual levels – that count the most towards achieving gender mainstreaming.
Other data shared by Dr Ghosh
* Women earn 23 per cent less than men
* Women’s (aged 25-54) labour force participation rate is 63 per cent compared to 94 per cent for men
* Women spend approx. 2.5 times more time on unpaid care and domestic work than men
* Only 24 per cent of all national parliamentarians were women as of February 2019, a slow increase from 11.3 per cent in 1995
* As of June 2019, only 11 women were serving as Heads of State and 12 as Heads of Government
* It is estimated that 35 per cent of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives
* 49 countries still lack laws protecting women from domestic violence
* There are 650 million women and girls in the world today who were married before the age of 18
* At least 200 million girls and women worldwide have undergone some form of female genital mutilation
* Between 1990 and 2017, women constituted only 2 per cent of mediators, 8 percent of negotiators, and 5 per cent of witnesses and signatories in all major peace processes
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