No country has equal opportunities for men and women - Plan Ireland

Charity calls for an increase in number of women in decision making positions

Overseas development organisation Plan Ireland launched its annual Because I am a Girl report today in Dublin, revealing some startling statistics regarding the current status of girls and women worldwide.

 

There is no country in the world where women and men have equal opportunities, equal pay or equal distribution of assets, according to Plan Ireland’s latest findings.

Plan Ireland’s Pathways to Power report reveals that while the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have progressed since 2000 in the area of health and education, women still fall far behind their male counterparts in economic attainment, educational accomplishment and political influence.

David Dalton, chief exeucitve of Plan Ireland, says the reality is women are still “largely absent from decision making” and face considerable obstacles on their path to empowerment.

“The biggest obstacle is culture and norms,” said Mr Dalton, highlighting the need to change norms such as infanticide, child marriage, religion and violence towards women.

“We need countries with equal opportunities, equal pay and equal distribution of assets,” he said. “There is no country in the world that meets those three criteria.”

“We need to increase the number of women in decision making positions. We need women to be role models.”

Mr Dalton highlighted that gender inequality also exists in developed countries like Ireland, where Irish women “continue to be very poorly represented”, particularly in the political arena where only 16 per cent of Dáil members are female.

He called for a standalone goal on gender equality in the post-2015 MDGs and the establishment of a United Nations Commission on information and accountability for gender equality.

Sean Sherlock, Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, who recently returned from a trip to Ebola-affected Sierra Leone, highlighted the need to abolish female genital mutilation (FGM) in the fight for gender equality.

He added the Ebola crisis had pushed international development efforts back considerably. “The crisis hits and all of a sudden the schools are closed and you’re back to stage one.”

“The key to any type of societal change is ensuring there’s at least a basic understanding by every single citizen to the idea that the right to education is something that is absolutely core.”

Justina Mutale, African Woman of the Year (2012), argued that the failure to adjust the male work model to suit the needs of women had led to the current economic and social problems worldwide.

“Women’s economic advancement promotes overall economic growth for the whole society,” she said. “This is evidenced by those countries around the world that have higher numbers of women participating in the labour market and in decision making, also enjoy greater poverty reduction.

Ms Mutale highlighted the case of Rwandan women who, in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, lost their husbands and were thrust into the role of breadwinner.

“Rwandan women have risen from the genocide stronger than any other women around the world, taking up positions of power in politics, business and other walks of life,” she said, adding that in last year’s parliamentary elections, women won 64 per cent of seats in parliament.

“The next generation will need to break down the barriers that have held women back for centuries,” said Ms Mutale.

“We do not women to just make up the numbers, we want a generation of women that has real power to make and influence real decisions in the boardroom, in parliament and also in the home.”