2021: Gender equality. Calling for a level playing field and zero tolerance
I dedicate this New Year message to the call for gender equality, to the call for zero tolerance towards gender violence and the call for all to get involved.
2020 spelled out yet more reasons why we cannot be complacent, bringing all generations into contact with their lifetime war, the elderly into contact with their second, the youth into contact with the first of a few to come, as we realise that unless we attack the root causes of global pandemics, more will come, possibly far worse than Covid-19. And guess which gender is worse affected at all levels by this pandemic? Women and girls.
2020 taught us that we face many more pressing issues than we thought - the need to rethink the way we produce food, the need to rethink our relationship with wild animals, the need to rethink our attitude towards destruction of habitat, quite apart from the other long lists of pressing issues inherited from 2019, which we have done little to address.
The oceans continue to be polluted from their depths to the surface, species in the sea and on the land are disappearing at alarming rates, our rivers are polluted, our lakes are polluted, our mountains are polluted, our plains are polluted, the air is polluted, space is polluted. Freshwater is disappearing, polar ice caps are melting.
Yet how can we face these pressing issues with one hand tied behind our backs? While gender inequality continues to exist, while the rights of girls and women are not equal to the rights of boys and men, while gender violence persists, how can humankind address its problems?
If the species cannot even sort its own issues out, how can it begin to address the many problems facing its very survival? The statistics on gender violence are exactly the same as they were last year, and the year before, and the year before that, and indeed since I started reporting on these issues decades ago.
In a world in which gender barriers and discrimination continue to exist, and with women and girls bearing the brunt of all of our challenges (HIV/AIDS, Covid-19, unemployment, access to education, access to justice, access to healthcare, human trafficking, sexual slavery... among others), how can we make a balanced approach to the problems facing us?
It is only common sense that we should set our own house in order first, by acting together to implement gender equality as a birthright and as a new reality for our girls and women, from birth, through pre-school, primary, middle and secondary school, higher education, into womanhood. This means an end to female genital mutilation, this means free access to education at all levels, this means an end to forced marriages, this means equal access to jobs, this means equal salaries for equal work, this means an end to gender violence. This means access to legal and juridical proceedings.
And this means men manning-up, denouncing cases of gender violence and an end to community acceptance, which is silence. It means an end to being bystanders.
Only with all our girls and women on board, pulling their weight alongside the men, contributing in all areas of study and work, in all areas of society and social and economic development, can we begin to act as a whole instead of one half fighting against the other. Until now, we have failed to do this.
Let us make a difference in 2021. Let us make 2021 the year in which we finally achieved gender equality and buried gender violence forever.