[OPINION | Dash of SAS] G7 to discuss how to make gender inequality history
This weekend, August 24-25, the G7 – 7 of the world’s richest countries – will get together in Biarritz, France, and one of the things they will discuss is how to make gender inequality history.
This is a huge moment for the 2.5 billion women and girls globally who experience gender inequality due to discrimination, sexual violence, and lack of access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities.
I also thought about the 4 women who matter most to me: my 72-year-old mother, my two younger sisters, and my non-binary teenager who is about to start their (preferred pronoun) first year in university. How could I make this G7 discussion understandable and relatable to their own experience of gender inequality?
To help me, I sat down for a Skype session with Katja Iversen, president and CEO of Women Deliver, the largest global conference on gender equality and women’s health. I had met Iversen at the various Women Deliver conferences that I covered, but in this conversation Iversen was speaking to me as a member of the Gender Equality Advisory Council (GEAC), a group of 37 women – and men – who drafted the recommendations consolidated in the Biarritz Partnership for Gender Equality, which will serve as the basis for the G7 discussions.
The others who sit in the GEAC along with Iversen include actor Emma Watson and Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights activist Nadja Murad.
“I would tell my mom that these world leaders will be sitting down for about two hours to talk about making the world a better place for women and girls,” Iversen told me in answer to my initial question.
What does a world that is a better place for women and girls look like? That is another way to ask the question “How do you make gender inequality history?”
In this world, women and girls are protected from discrimination and violence and are given the same opportunities to access financial tools, education, and health. It is a world where these aspirations are reflected in government commitments, such as public policy and funding. It is a world where women and girls are given support in an environment that recognizes her value and her contribution in the workplace, in government, and the world. It is a world of equal chances and choices.
A major step in achieving this world is summarized in the 4 “big asks” or action steps outlined in the GEAC list of recommendations in the Biarritz Partnership: “We’re asking the G7 governments – in fact, all governments – to use these recommendations and commit to ditch their discriminatory laws, champion laws that move us forward, take a gender lens to their national budgets and systems, and, finally, include a way to monitor progress.”
The list of recommendations in the Biarritz Partnership, which can be found here, focus on 4 different areas:
Addressing and eliminating various forms of sexual violence that include domestic and intimate partner violence, child and early/forced marriage, trafficking and sexual exploitation, sexual harassment and discrimination in public spaces, and conflict-related violence. There is also a section that includes addressing and eliminating online sexual violence, like revenge porn.
Ensuring access to quality education and health care by making 12 years of primary education free and compulsory for all, eliminating gender-based violence and discrimination in school, ensuring access to birth control, protecting the right to a safe abortion, among others.
Promoting economic empowerment through mechanisms that include equal pay, addressing discrimination in the workplace, providing protection for women in sectors that are highly vulnerable to abuses, like domestic work and the informal economy.
Mainstreaming gender by using a gender lens and perspective when it comes to budgeting for development and government programs, and the auditing of these programs. This also includes having a gender perspective in the development of national policies related to peace and security and climate change. One of the proposed ways of doing this is by breaking down the legal barriers that prevent women from getting elected into office through gender fair quotas in the electoral system.
The recommendations in the Biarritz Partnership are good practices in gender-progressive and inclusive laws taken from every region in the world. The Philippines’ Magna Carta for Women was cited in the Biarritz Partnership for its comprehensive approach to eliminating all forms of discrimination against women across different sectors, like the military and police, and the portrayal of women in mass media.
While developed countries like Sweden and Canada have taken the lead in mainstreaming gender equality, “there is not one single country that has a patent on gender inclusive or progressive laws,” said Iversen.
And that’s actually a good thing. It shows that every country can enact gender progressive laws aligned with their cultural contexts, and that gender and culture can co-exist.
”We’ve made it easy. The identified 79 laws and policies from around the world have driven progress for women and have resulted in economic, political, and social benefits for all. This is evidence for how a more gender equal world benefits everyone,” said Iversen.
At this weekend’s meeting, the GEAC urge the G7 and other leaders to sign on to the Biarritz Partnership.
“We want the G7 countries to sign on, but it’s bigger than that. We hope they will be inspired by the package, go home and get rid of their existing discriminatory laws, and choose one of the reforms from our package to champion, get it funded, and include a way to monitor progress,” said Iversen.
She explained that the Biarritz Partnership is not a package of ready-made solutions that we can just plug and play. However, it does offer points of reflection and action to move towards that gender-equal world that we want – the world that is better for women and girls.
“We’re providing the recipe, it’s up to the world leaders to get cooking,” said Iversen. – Rappler.com