As I begin my Easter holidays with deadlines on the horizon and a huge chunk of work to be accomplished between now and then, I am taking a little time out to re-engage with the world beyond my books and theory. As is often the case, my internet browsing has once again led me towards the issue of gender inequality in developing countries, and I’d like to share a few titbits of information I have found particularly interesting this week.
One article I came across discussed the relative vulnerability of women to the harmful repercussions of climate change. The article offers the example of increased female mortality in the Asian tsunami in 1994 due to women being less likely to be able to swim than men. This is a lens through which I have not previously considered the impact of climate change in developing countries, and I am glad to see that various operations are under way to build gender-sensitive resilience to disaster.
Recognition of the need to protect Bolivian women has also hit the news this month as a new law has been passed which aims to prevent violence against women, treat and support victims, and hit perpetrators of such violence with harsher penalties. This change follows a series of attacks against women which have received increasing media coverage and increasing civil society action pressing the government to respond. The ‘Comprehensive Law to Guarantee Women a Life Free of Violence’ was passed on the 9th March 2013 by Evo Morales and is most definitely a breakthrough for the women of Bolivia, yet concerns have been raised regarding some grey areas of the legislation.
On a similar note, a recent interview with Gloria Steinem, co-founder of the Women’s Media Center, drew attention to the need for democracy both inside and outside the home in order to improve gender equality in the world today. The interview saw Steinem emphasise the urgency of addressing the problem of violence against women, which she says is proven to be found at the root of wider societal violence. An important aspect to come out of this interview is the mention of gender inequality in the ‘developed’ world too, which I feel is often neglected in the Western media’s readiness to criticise societies elsewhere.
This brings me to discuss a rare gem of an article that does exactly that. A BBC article, which I was glad to see reach the top 5 most shared articles on the BBC news articles at that time, looked into the everyday struggles of Japanese mothers in juggling the many expectations of women in Japanese society. The women featured in the article spoke of having to choose between a career or a family, and the lack of support they receive from their male counterparts. This is phenomenon is not unique to ‘developed’ countries; often in the ‘developing’ world women entering the labour market do not experience any redistribution of household chores and end up carrying an extra burden as a result. ‘Developed’ and ‘developing’ are terms I can get quite frustrated with in these scenarios, as the two supposedly separate worlds are not at all separate, our world is a lot more complex than that.
What I hope to have shown here is that plenty is being done all around the world, yet we need to keep fighting. By ‘we’ I don’t mean only women, men, ‘developed’ or ‘developing’ nations; we, as a compassionate human race, must keep fighting for equality in every sense of the word.