In one of her write ups by Cassandra Clifford called ‘Seeking an End to Global Child Abuse’, she quoted Shirley Chisholm: "The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, "It's a girl.'” That stays true globally irrespective of caste, religion, time period or country only the magnitude differs. Having said that, it is encouraging to see how some countries have indeed ‘walked that walk’ [and not just talked the talk] gradually managing to move towards a more balanced society.
HDI [Human Development Index] is a measure of Human Resource Development in a country [higher values indicate better performance] and GII [Gender Inequality Index] is a measure of gender based imbalance [higher values consider greater imbalance]. If we let the numbers do the talking, one can’t help but observe the following from the below graphs showing HDI and GII of 12 countries from 2000 to 2012.
· Japan shows most favorable HDI v/s GII ratio [i.e. not only has there has been an overall development of people there has been least
· China and UAE show considerable growth in HDI and a remarkable fall in the GII
· Although India and Ghana show equalizing HDI growth, Ghana shows a marked low GII comparatively.
· Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran have shown steady improvement on GII while Syria shows an opposite trend.
Data Source: http://hdr.undp.org
Clearly countries like Japan, China, UAE form great examples of countries that have walked that walk towards lessening the gender based imbalance amongst their population as represented in their GII trends calculated based on reproductive health, empowerment and labor market.
Japan specifically has a remarkably stable GII some of their milestones being:
· Average life expectancy for females in 2004 was 85.6 years, greater than the male average of 78.6 years. Every year since 1985, Japanese women have had the world's longest life expectancy.
· 97.8% of Japanese women advance to high school or equivalent, and since 1969 that % has been higher for women than for men.
· In 2004, the women advancing to universities and junior colleges were 48.7% nearly as high as the 51.1% of men.
· Women made up 41.3% of the workforce.
To achieve and maintain this, Japan has constituted a Council for Gender Equality and Gender Equality Bureau that works Priority Fields that all countries striving to achieve a low GII can benchmark, some of them listed below: [Source: Publication by Gender Equality Bureau Cabinet Office – Steps towards Gender Equality in Japan]
· Expand women's participation in policy decision‑ making processes: This can be achieved by ensuring women’s participation in the democratic machinery by participating, contesting and voting in the electoral process.
· Review social systems and practices and raise awareness from a gender‑ equal perspective and eliminate violence against women: By forming strict legislations with severe consequences against malpractices like female feticide, female genital mutation, dowry, human trafficking and sex crimes.
· Secure equal opportunities and treatment between men and women in the field of employment: By instituting labor laws with provisions relating to whistle blowers against acts of discrimination based on gender, caste or color and penal provisions for those found guilty.
· Establish gender equality for realizing dynamic rural areas: Abolishing laws and customs prevailing in many parts of the world that prevent women from owning land, property or enterprises.
· Support the efforts of men and women to harmonize work with their family and community life: Social acceptance to women participation in the work force and in social activities especially new initiatives and priority sectors.
· Support better quality of life to women via social security measures: Like promoting child care, focusing on reproductive health, creating awareness against HIV/ AIDS and Breast Cancer and an effective pension plan.
· Enrich education and learning – Including material to promote gender equality in curriculums and encouraging education amongst girls and women also creating awareness discouraging discriminatory practices.
Last but not the least- those around us learn more from what we are than what we preach, so leading by example is worth a try!