Gender Equality and Inclusion: The Power From Within, The Power of the Collective – by Jessica da Silva

In preparation for the high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly, which will be held in New York, on 23 September 2020, stakeholders came together on July 21st of 2020 to share experiences and strategies on how to accelerate the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. The social and economic inequalities faced by women and girlshave been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic has forced us to recognize and acknowledge the role that our privilege plays in strengthening the systemic gender discrimination, marginalization and oppression present in our society. Accordingly, the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls is a collective responsibility. We are all responsible to create spaces, agendas and policies that are designed by women on the ground – those that are directly affected by the common global challenges (i.e. climate changes, gender inequality racial discrimination). 

However, how do we bridge the gap between outputs (policies) and outcomes (people’s perception of systemic change)? How do we transform this power that we now have to change the lives of every woman and girl politically, socially and economically?

First, we need to have municipal, provincial and national legislation that through a gender-analysis perspective recognizes that the inequalities that exist were created and are reinforced by patriarchy. To do so, girls, young women and women’s voices, participation and leadership need to be included in the decision-making processes. Women need to hold positions of power and leadership to help design the next system which will tackle the current system of oppression and violence. In including women, we will bring the power back to the collective movements of people.

Second, we need to reconceptualize the gender roles and normative which provide the foundation for patriarchy to keep dictating social norms and institutions. By adopting intersectionality in our interpretations of gender roles and creation of social identities we will provoke women and girls, boys and men across the globe to challenge the current structure of power and decision-making processes. We will offer equal opportunities to all, the autonomy for the right to choose, and empowerment to build a just, inclusive and better world because gender inequalities take away the right to choose from women and girls and men and boys. It violates more directly the female by stripping away her natural power to become, to create, and to lead. However, at the same time, it violates the male by removing his natural power to feel, to connect and to express. Thus, reconceptualizing gender roles means combatting social inequalities and creating holistic role models of gender equality and inclusion for both men and women. As such, representation becomes extremely important and we need to include all the voices, no matter the gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation,or religion to engage the society and challenge privilege. We can’t talk about black lives, women’s lives, or indigenous lives without listening to them. We can’t gather and try to find solutions to issues that pertain to women, black, and indigenous people without empowering them to the advancement of their rights. We need to create partnerships with those that are entitled to have an opinion on various violence caused by this deep-rooted racist, discriminatory, Western centric, patriarchal system. 

Finally, we need to reorganize from a social point of view. The pandemic has highlighted the fact that what supports life is not the good performance of the market. What supports life is care and social services that meet the people’s needs. It is about time that states and government fully understood this notion and that the interests of human beings need to be put ahead of the needs of big corporations. It is our responsibility to achieve gender equality and inclusion, however we need to shift the narrative from individual blame and responsibility to that of big corporations and politiciansThat is, addressing the system that created the various global challenges that we now face.  We can’t let a good crisis go to waste, and if anything, the pandemic has shown us the enormous inequalities that exist. It has shown us that going back to normal is not what we want, we want to go back to a normal that never was, a normal that does not leave people behind, especially women and girls. We need a normal that prioritizes equality, respect for nature and all forms of life, climate action and a better future everyone. In order to do so, we need to pressure the government (which works FOR us and not the other way around) to ensure appropriate access to social services (housing, transportation, education, care, water) things that everybody should have access to. The COVID-19 crisis presented us the opportunity to demand these social services as well as equal opportunities to all, gender parity and women’s public representation, remuneration of care and domestic labour, inclusion of a gender and feminist perspective in our just recovery and just transition plans, access to internet, sexual education, and reproductive health. 

In conclusion, the implementation of measures to dismantle structure inequalities requires joint efforts from government, private sector, international organizations, non-profit organizations and civil society. Naming equality and discrimination is important, but if it’s not accompanied with accountability, gender identity, and diversity we will still be representing an agenda that violates women’s right. We have achieved a lot in the past years, but women and girls still face discrimination and violation and decisions continue to be made on their behalf. Without the participation of all women, movements working together, and the adoption of an intersectionality approach we won’t achieve the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.