Gender Equality & Women Empowerment: Unlocking Human Potential On a Transformative Scale

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Inequalities affecting women and girls, in all countries of the world, are now widely challenged. With the #metoo movement, global audiences came to realize that “we don’t know what we don’t know” and that transparency on statistical facts can be the first trigger to changing the way people think, act and respond to gender discrimination.

 

At the Paris Talks conference this year, we designed a special working group session dedicated mostly to participants that were unable to take part in the full Day conference.

 

Amazingly facilitated, managed and conducted by Miren Bengoa, the Executive Director at Fondation CHANEL, this session challenged participants to take their time to think about the underlying assumptions that build gender norms and show how transformative data can be when used to enlighten the debate.

 

Participants were each given individual time to read through the information sheet. This silent reading was followed by a group discussion on what questions come to mind without restrains, judgments or comments on other participants' contributions.

 

The facilitator gave a debrief on the list of questions and pointed to the subtopics that emerged from the brainstorming, she proceeded with splitting the group into 3 subgroups to discuss the 3 most outstanding questions in the list, making sure all members provided inputs, personal experiences or ideas on “what we can do to overcome the underlying issues that hold us from achieving gender equality” 

 

After brainstorming, the subgroups regrouped into one main group to present the top 3 ideas that were voted as innovative and transformative in their respective subgroup. These ideas were so innovative that they made it to this year’s Paris Talks white paper entitled the Blueprint For Peace; Innovative Solutions To Modern & Future Conflicts.

 

In this post, we’re super excited to briefly share the conclusions and lessons learned from our gender equality and women's empowerment working group session and would like to thank Miren for such an amazing work of taking us out of our comfort zones to help us think critically on these so complex matters. A huge thanks to the OECD that’s developed an extensive database on Social Institutions and Gender Inequalities (SIGI), a powerful instrument to guide policies and everyday understanding of gender equality; a tool upon which this working group was designed.

 

Now, let’s get into this.

 

Challenge Statement For Participants

How can we create a transformative framework for gender equality? What are the appropriate instruments, structures and actors to involve to achieve this goal on a political and cultural level?

The Problem To Be Solved

Inequalities affecting women and girls, in all countries of the world, are now widely challenged. With the #metoo movement, global audiences came to realize that “we don’t know what we don’t know” and that transparency on statistical facts can be the first trigger to changing the way people think, act and respond to gender discrimination.  But real gender equality must go beyond statistics and challenge societal norms, bias, and often culture.

Background 

Data and facts are commonly used to explain societal issues, gender norms pertaining to the roles of women and men. The OECD, for example, has developed an extensive database on Social Institutions and Gender Inequalities (SIGI), which can become a powerful instrument to guide policies and everyday understanding of gender equality. Indeed, not one single country has reached gender despite considerable progress. 

These tools cannot act alone because culture and gender bias are not always quantifiable: they lie mainly within us, our beliefs and the pervasive stereotypes that build culture, relationships and opportunities for girls and women.

Proposed Solutions

1.  Implement educational programs at all levels to promote Gender Equality

 

  • Harnessing the power of education to build a better self-awareness among all in society, to boost confidence among women, and to promote gender equality at all levels. 

  • Education and Awareness among the younger generation:

School is the place to educate the gender equality norms and to create the right environment as a model for the future. Socialize children with ideas of gender equality and without ideas of limiting expectations and perceptions. 

  • Education and Awareness in institutions and workplaces:

Transforming perceptions, norms and habits of gender must be first rooted in understanding. We can create opportunities and environments in different working/professional environments to help sensitize everyone to the detrimental realities of gender discrimination and treatment. 

  • Approaches:

When addressing or lobbying others on the importance of progressing gender equality, it is crucial to do so skillfully and with understanding. As gender impacts everyone, everyone has their own perspective and experiences which may diverge, potentially being a source of conflict and point of contention. For instance, some people may have never experienced gendered consequences in their lives and thus may not understand its importance, or others may simply propagate stereotypes based on their own experiences. Therefore, failing to account for this could work to alienate allies and reinforce divisions. We may avoid such sources of conflict through non-aggressive approaches or providing evidence. 

2. Promote the Harmonisation of attitudes to Gender Equality between Law and Society

 

  • Worldwide, there is an ongoing, necessary and hard-won movement to have the law see and treat genders equally. Furthermore, even if legislation is passed, there must also be an oversight to ensure such legislation is enforced and that sanctions are in place to back up any form of disobedience. While this has been formalized within some societies, these same notions of gender equality in law are not necessarily reflected at the society level. As demonstrated by the SIGI Database, Social norms play a pivotal (huge) role in this asymmetry. However, education (by and in the political and civil sphere), constructive dialogue and being bold in challenging the status quo can help to harmonize law and society regarding attitudes to Gender Equality. 

  • SIGI Database demonstrates pillars of social norms, highlighting their significance in shaping gender treatment and perceptions. These pillars include looking at : 

Legislation - whether ideals of gender equality and rights are projected in legislation

Practices - gender equality policy vs. practice

Belief systems - perceptions of gender and gender equality based on religion, traditions and so forth. 

A great framework to read the reality of gender equality as we see the necessity of harmonization between law and society, and how social norms shape this relationship.  

 

3. Enhance alignment between the individual and their aspirations through opportunities within educational, formal and non-formal institutions. 

 

Authenticity must be emphasized as a tool to empower women and help them achieve their aspirations. Gender norms, assumptions and so on act as uniform and rigid ideas of what individuals can and can’t achieve based on their gender. To overcome inner barriers, to redefine our own vision of reality, to find our voice and actualize an authentic posture, there must be opportunities at all levels that emphasize the importance of authenticity, from educational institutions, formal and informal settings and so on. We must ensure that such programs are available at different times in life. 

 

How can we create a transformative framework for gender equality? What are the appropriate instruments, structures and actors to involve to achieve this goal on a political and cultural level? 

To know more about these ideas and multiple other ones that were shared in different other working group sessions at Paris Talks this year, don’t hesitate to download a free copy of this year’s Paris Talks white paper entitled the Blueprint For Peace; Innovative Solutions To Modern & Future Conflicts.

 

If you’re interested in getting us to share these lessons and our working methodologies in your organization, please don’t hesitate to reach out: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.