It’s time to talk about the “F” word.
No, not that “F” word, this one: feminism.
Despite what you’ve heard, feminism has nothing to do with hating men or discriminating against them. It’s also not about promoting female superiority or dominance of one gender over the other.
In fact, feminism is for everyone – men, boys, girls and women can proudly call themselves feminists because it means believing in the social, political and economic equality of all!
Right now, we need feminism because gender equality has still not been achieved anywhere in the world.
Here in Canada, women still face a gender gap that leads to unequal pay and less opportunities, and in the many countries where we work, gender inequality often limits girl’s and women’s freedom to exercise their basic human rights to education, health and protection. This further perpetuates problematic global issues such as intergenerational cycles of poverty, child marriage, gender-based violence and high maternal and newborn mortality rates.
But through working together – men, boys, women and girls – we can create a just world where everyone has equal rights, opportunities and can reach their full potential!
3 ways feminism can change the world
Feminism is all about gender equality and if we want to ensure that everyone has the same fundamental rights, such as education, healthcare, clean water, sanitation, livelihood and protection, then acknowledging that girls and women are denied these rights simply because of their gender is a crucial first step – we can’t move forward if half the population is held back!
Here are 3 major reasons why feminism can change the world:
1. When girls are educated and empowered, they uplift their entire communities
If a girl is empowered with knowledge of her rights, has enough to eat, a safe environment free from gender-based violence, an education, and an opportunity to participate in decisions affecting her life and future, she’ll work to raise the standard of living for herself, her family and her entire community. In fact:
- An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 % and an extra year of secondary school by 15 to 25 %.
- When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries 4 years later and has 2.2 fewer children.
- According to some estimates a 1% increase in the level of women’s education generates 0.3% in additional economic growth (in a country).
And there are many other benefits too.
Mothers reinvest more of their income back into their families. Educated mothers are less at risk of maternal health complications because they are better informed about disease, preventative measures and healthcare access.
In addition, educated mothers provide better nutrition and make better choices about their children’s future. They are also more likely to invest in and emphasize the importance of their children’s education when compared to mothers who did not receive an education.
2. Damaging gender stereotypes hurt boys and men too
A lot has been written and researched about how patriarchal societies – and toxic masculinity in particular – negatively affect the lives of girls and women by promoting female subordination, misogyny and sexual violence.
However, it’s also true that traditional ideas of masculinity such as being tough, competitive, aggressive, unemotional and stoic can cause boys and men to suffer too. Statistically, boys and men are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors like gang activity, unprotected sex and substance abuse. They also have overall shorter life expectancy rates and a higher rate of completed suicide. These stark realities signify that men and boys also stand to benefit from a world without gendered expectations.
In an equal world, boys and men are free to express themselves and be whoever they want without rigid limitation or fear of being tormented by male peers. For example, a loving stay-at-home dad who is supported by his wife would traditionally be frowned upon as “unmanly” in many parts around the world. In a gender equal world, however, it wouldn’t matter whether a man is a stay-at-home dad or a major executive that brings home a six-figure salary; the only thing that matters is that everyone has the capacity and opportunity to live the lives they want free from judgement and expectation.
3. True equality unleashes human potential
When girls and women are empowered, humanity is empowered. Gender equality benefits us socially, economically, politically and even psychologically. Recent studies have shown that countries ranking higher on the gender equity scale are actually happier and wealthier too.
And when it comes to ending poverty, equality plays a crucial role. Right now, more than a billion people live on less than a $1.25 per day – 70% of them are women and girls. We can dramatically reduce this number by ensuring access to education, safe healthcare, equal pay and increasing women’s opportunities to succeed in business and own land (worldwide, less than 20% of landholders are women).
Furthermore, achieving gender equality will help reduce harmful practices against women and girls, including sex trafficking, femicide, wartime sexual violence and other oppression tactics such as forced marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
The time for change is now
Both globally and nationally, the idea of approaching international development through a gender equality lens has led to the implementation of both the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Government of Canada’s feminist international assistance policy – these two important agendas focus on addressing the particular issues and challenges faced by girls and women in the developing world, with Goal #5 of the SDG’s aimed at achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls by 2030.
Join the movement for equality
The road to true equality is going to be slow and painful, but everyone has a vital role to play in speaking out for change. Together, we can fight for and create a more just and equal world – not just for ourselves but for our children too.
Change is possible. It starts with you.