In case you are keen on data and would like to know the scale and pervasiveness of gender discrimination and gender stereotyping in the world today, you might find UNFPA's report, "State of World Population Report 2020" interesting. For example, you learn from the report that in 57 countries, only 55 per cent of women aged 15 to 49 years who are married or in a union make their own decisions about sexual relations and the use of contraceptives and reproductive health services.
The report focuses on three key issues -
Gender-biased sex selection,
Female Genital Cutting and
So, if these issues are close to your heart you may want to read the report. It has several case studies as well.
At Kushal* as does UNFPA we firmly belief in a world where every woman and girl should be free to chart her own future. That’s a no brainer and why not!
The barriers to gender equity are detailed in the report, and indeed some of these are that we experience in our work day to day and work towards. The data you see are appalling and I wonder in despair why we continue to be stuck in medieval attitudes, beliefs and practices in the 21st century. Only the other day a colleague who is volunteering was told,
“Why does she have to learn what happens to her body in pregnancy? My mother and aunt live with us. They tell her what to do. They are who should make decisions for her and for us as a couple.”
It was upsetting and it's easy to feel frustrated and react angrily. But that is why supporting each other and checking in is critical in our work. We know to change mindsets of those who hold power and deny bodily autonomy demands patience. It can’t be done by sermonising, which is why we rely on story-telling, an effective tool that we believe can lead to social change. Fortunately, we have been getting better responses than expected when engaging male members of a family, especially younger ones.
We rely a lot on technology and are determined to break the digital divide where we work. On that call, I would have liked for the report to articulate strongly enough how and why it is essential to also address the digital divide in today’s world and to make a better case for leveraging technology effectively in order to facilitate autonomy, decision making and wellness in women.
I agree with what Prof. Maya Unnithan's who heads Centre for Cultures of Reproduction, Technologies and Health (CORTH) at Sussex University has to say,
"Although rights have arrived, justice has not followed!" and
"Men as husbands, fathers, policymakers, healthcare providers need to use their privilege to redress gender discrimination for greater social justice."
*Kushal is a social enterprise which works for the wellness of pregnant women currently in Andhra Pradesh, India.