“Economic growth alone does not lead to ending the gender gap”
Let's say that Amani, who is 7 years old, lives in a very poor town in a depressed area of Latin America or the Caribbean, where, according to Unicef data, there is more inequality, discrimination and gender violence in the world. If things do not change, this girl will never learn to read or write, like the 15 million girls who do not go to school in the poorest countries, compared to the 10 million boys (UN Women Report).
If things don't change, she will still be up to 11 percentage points more likely to be without food than children her age; She could be subject to physical or sexual violence and have married before turning 18 years of age or die during pregnancy or childbirth, just like the other 300,000 women who die annually from these causes.
A girl from any very poor town in Latin America or the Caribbean could be subjected to physical or sexual violence and married before turning 18.
Amani is a fictitious name, but her situation can be extrapolated to millions of girls. The above are just some of the data that deepen the already marked gap in gender inequality in the most fragile countries. Data that calls, especially in recent years, to include and enhance gender approaches in any cooperation project or presentation in management positions... “If we go to the base of the pyramid, women and girls are more vulnerable to the lack of basic services, such as electricity or drinking water. When at Acción.org we provide these services, the impact on improving their living conditions is immediate,” she stated.
Also above the data, Marta Pajarín, associate researcher at the Gender Unit of the School of Government of the Complutense University of Madrid, highlighted the importance of talking about trends, such as the increase in inequalities, even in countries of the global North. , where women are the ones who suffer greater social and labor discrimination, or the increase in violence and armed conflicts, “which have led to a tripling of the number of people who have had to leave forcibly in the last 10 years.” from their country of origin, mostly women and girls. Not to mention trafficking for sexual exploitation, almost a million girls and women every year, according to UNHCR.”
There are 220 million women who live with the suffering of excision and 4.3 million girls are at risk of suffering from it today.
To these trends, José María Vera, executive director of Unicef Spain, added the improvement of indicators relating to childhood in the last two decades, but with a certain setback in recent years. The cause, in addition to the conflicts, is the impact of the climate, authoritarianism or covid, “which made everything worse for women.” This, without forgetting female genital cutting: “There are 220 million women who live with this suffering and 4.3 million girls are today at risk of suffering from it.”
Although the above are negative trends, in recent decades it has been possible for more girls to attend school and fewer to be forced into early marriage, or to have more women holding positions in parliaments and in leadership positions. “It is noticeable that SDG 5, which addresses gender equality and the empowerment of women, is being incorporated into all the rest of the sustainable development goals,” commented Cristina Ruiz.
“I am not optimistic, complicated times are coming. But it is true that awareness is very evident and there is finally talk (in politics, in society) that there are structural inequalities that come from the violation of rights, and this has an increasingly greater impact in the world. thanks to the Internet,” added Vega Díez, director of International Cooperation at CERAI (Center for Rural Studies and International Agriculture).
“Political and economic measures must take into account that women are the most vulnerable in conflicts or crises.”
For her part, Elisabeth Prado, director of communication and women's empowerment at the BBVA Microfinance Foundation in Panama, gave the example of María, a Peruvian indigenous woman from the Amazon jungle who, thanks to her training with a digital skills advisor and a microcredit, you can sell your crafts or give money to your daughter with an app on your mobile phone, because “bringing technological innovation closer to remote areas and vulnerable people allows us to reduce the digital gap and therefore the gender gap.”
Marta Pajarín supported this idea: “an indigenous community is not the same as one of refugees or one in the middle of a war, the support has to be different in each case, we have to know the gender relations in each context where we work.” Women, despite being the poorest and carrying the care burden two to three times more than men, have better payment behavior and invest more than 90% of the surplus from their businesses in the well-being of their families, according to the statement. Meadow. Hence “gender approaches must always be multidimensional,” Prado combined.
Bringing technology closer to vulnerable people and remote areas makes it possible to reduce the digital and gender gap.”
Along the same lines, the executive director of Unicef Spain pointed out that to achieve a transformation of structures (anarchic, patriarchal...), it is not enough to remain on the surface; We must go to the roots of these: “I remember the case of an 18-year-old Ethiopian girl whose reaction to being forced to marry was to go door to door explaining to families why child marriage and genital mutilation had to be confronted! “It influenced the community culture house by house!”
The director of International Cooperation at Cerai added the importance of not only trying to monetize the changes in relation to gender, “since the changes must be structural, also affecting men and communities. Beyond focusing on economic growth, we must offer women other resources such as access to water, security or training, which may be slower, but equally or more effective." Even if we only had the economic approach in mind, overcoming inequality in women and girls would mean an increase in GDP of between 10 and 25% in countries.
An indigenous community is not the same as one of refugees or one in the middle of a war; the support must be different in each case.”
“Calculate the effects if gender approaches are mainstreamed, that is, the approaches we have been talking about are kept in mind: that the problem belongs to everyone, to women and men, from anywhere, and concerns all actors ( public and private administrations, NGOs, civil population). We must put an end to this error of thinking that economic growth itself already leads to ending inequality,” said Cristina Ruiz.
Also, as José María Vera recalled, mainstreaming must take into account war conflicts, unfortunately very topical due to the war between Israel and Palestine or between Ukraine and Russia. “This is the most difficult scenario that we can encounter because there is a flagrant violation of human rights that requires specific vertical programs with specific objectives to close the gaps.”
War is the most difficult scenario because all human rights are violated
The magic word:
Mainstreaming gender approaches is, therefore, according to Vega Díez, “the cream of the bucket”, but we must go further. We must work in a comprehensive, direct and defined way to reduce the existing inequality gap. “Because working for women guarantees the well-being of children and the community. Women and girls are the most vulnerable people, who can least exercise their rights and suffer the most from crises. We must remember that when designing political and economic measures.”
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