Are You MAD For Gender Equality?

Celeste Hoang

Across the globe, people are MAD for gender equality. In this instance, they are Making A Difference and taking a stand to support equal rights for women and girls. The global celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8 was a momentous occasion for women everywhere. It was also a day of reflection of how far women have come, as well as a reminder that society has a long way to go in terms of making strides in equality.

Across the world women are often treated as lower class citizens and marginalized. Some of these examples include:

  • The mandatory guardianship and ban on females driving in Saudi Arabia;
  • Last year’s horrendous kidnapping of school girls in Chibok, Nigeria by the militant group Boko Haram;
  • Honor killings due to pride and family name occurring in various parts of the world;
  • The death or abandonment of baby girls in China due to the one child policy;
  • The absence or abandonment of prenatal and maternal clinics during periods of war and conflict  – though in recent years, there have been some strides in the improvement of prenatal and maternal health; and
  • Gender pay gap, even in countries like the U.S.

One of the greatest burdens women and girls face is a disinterest in their education, or a lack of educational resources, resulting in partial education or none at all.

Investing in girls’ education must become a priority, otherwise all talk and discussions on equality becomes moot. In developing countries, continuing education is not an option for some poverty-stricken girls due to inadequate resources, conflict and wars, and child marriage.

Genuine interest in the well-being of girls should be taken into account. They are not commodities to be given to the bidder who can give her parents money for her hand in marriage; neither should they be treated like lower class citizens and mistreated by society because of their gender. They should be afforded the same opportunities boys are given: completing their education, enjoying their childhood rather than becoming wives and mothers once they reach puberty, and the chance to pursue a fulfilling career.

This should not be the harsh reality girls and women are faced with in the 21st century. Education should be accessible, no girl should feel inferior based on her gender, and women should be subject to the same pay as their male counterparts. Very large leaps must be taken in the quest for women’s equality. In the meantime, there are women taking a stand by being the voice for the unheard, as is the case for UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson and Séraphine Nsekanabo Musanga, InterAction's 2014 Humanitarian Award Winner.

There are numerous other endeavors by individuals, companies, NGOs, and governments providing aid and resources for women. For instance, Australian-funded projects in Kenya and Tanzania are assisting thousands of women across both countries by improving the agricultural productivity of smallholder farmers and encouraging family planning and maternal health.

It is a beautiful thing that the world has International Women’s Day, but we as a society should not just take one day out of our year to commemorate its significance. The international development community has done a remarkable job highlighting and raising awareness to the issues affecting girls and women. Individually we have a role to play in the fight for gender equality, whether in our backyards or interactions with familiar faces. Are you MAD?