ByÂ Arunima Khullar:
Gender equality is the equal valuing of the role of men and women in the society. It is, first and foremost, a human right.
Crossing the barricades of stereotypes, coming over the community prejudices the 21st century, URBAN woman has carved her niche. The career conscious women, a consummate master in balancing her act, the alternate lives. Some working by the day and mothering by the night. Others shuffle through their files and likes. Not only has she achieved economic stability, she has earned herself social equality; she is geared to fight for her rights.
This is the lady we know, the one we see every day, the one we share the elevator with.
But wait a minute, what about the rural population? Especially the one’s below the poverty line, 70% of whom happen to be females. Females living in sub-standard conditions, dealing with obstacles at every step. Their lives revolve around instances of injustice and discrimination. All they yearn for is good health, safe childbirth and employment, but instead, they get to confront unequal access to education and health services, violence and absurd social customs. They are not even allowed to raise their voice; their life is one hardship after the other.
Did you know? Around the world, one in every three women has been beaten, coerced or abused in some way or the other. Most often by people she knows, it could be her husband, her neighbour, a colleague, or any of her male family members. Also, penury has led the poor women into working for longer hours in degrading working conditions at meagre wages, just so her family can survive. But that’s not it; poverty and gender discrimination also exacerbates reproductive health problems. This in turn has resulted in reproductive health problems becoming a leading cause of women’s ill health and death worldwide.
Apart from all these hardships, there also exist the age-old harmful traditional practices. Killings in the name of ‘honour’ take the lives of thousands of young women every year. At least 130 million women, till date, have been forced to undergo female genital mutilation and every year another 2 million are at risk from this brutal practice. Young girls are forcibly married at a very early age; this can cause lifelong psychological as well physical problems, especially those resulting from childbearing.
To empower women a multi-pronged approach needs to be adopted. The first step for which could be education. As the famous saying goes, ‘you educate a girl and you educate a whole community’. Education will lead them towards better job opportunities which in turn will result in economic freedom. This will not only act as a starting point of equality but will also help women in raising their family. Education, hence, will help in dealing with poverty and hunger which are major causes of gender inequality. Areas such as child and maternal health also need to be taken care of. Awareness, regarding healthy practices, amongst women is imperative. But most of all, men need to be involved and enlightened.
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