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March 10, 2015

UN calls for worldwide gender equality by 2030


The UN urged world leaders this week to ensure gender equality by 2030.

Women’s participation in education, government and the labor force is up, but representation and treatment remain unequal, and violence against women remains at high levels, according to a new report.

Gender equality must exist before other issues can be addressed, according to Lakshmi Puri, the deputy executive director of UN Women. “We won’t get anywhere on poverty eradication, anywhere on economic growth, anywhere on social development or environmental sustainability, without empowering half of humanity,” she said.

The report shows a significant increase in the number of girls enrolled in primary and secondary schools, but in many areas women still face barriers to education and 62 million girls around the world do not attend school.

Women’s representation in government has almost doubled; 36 countries now have over 30 percent female representatives, and 19 have female heads of state. But women only comprise about 20 percent of lawmakers worldwide, Puri said.

The number of women in the labor force has increased, though a wage gap persists; in most countries, women make 60-75 percent of what men are paid. In the U.S., that number is lower for women of color, with black women making 64 cents, and Latina women making 56 cents, to a man’s dollar. At the current rate of wage increase, it will be another 75 years before women receive compensation equal to men, according to the report.

35 percent of women have survived physical violence, most commonly from an intimate partner. Discriminatory attitudes against women, as well as “widespread” beliefs that women are to blame for violence against them, contribute to the persistence of violence, the report said. The risk of violence against women is higher in conflict-ridden areas, according to the World Health Organization.

There are more laws against abuse than ever before: 125 countries have outlawed domestic violence, an increase from 89 countries in 2006. However, the majority of women who experience violence do not report it, according to the findings.

Warm up questions
  1. How do attitudes towards gender equality differ between generations and different cultures?
  2. What are the consequences of different attitudes towards males and females?
Critical thinking questions
  1. How does unequal treatment of women affect not just women, but society in general?
  2. What attitudes and beliefs contribute to the unequal treatment of women? Are those attitudes specific to any one part of the world or common between a few different areas?
  3. Puri stated that the world will not make progress on economic and social growth, nor environmental sustainability, without making progress on gender equality first. Do you agree? Why or why not?
  4. What can nations do to work toward gender equality in the areas listed above?
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