Gender inequality is an issue that has existed and plagued women around the world for generations.
In modern times, gender inequality is more widely recognized as unacceptable than in the past.
To achieve this effect, efforts have been made throughout history women and men around the world
to draw attention to these inequalities and to change the social practices that support(Sullivan, 2007, p 246).
Efforts are continuing to be made today as well in an effort to eradicate gender inequality once and for all.
Efforts to stop gender inequality are sometimes referred to as the feminist movement, or movement for womens rights.
1998 marked the 150th Anniversary of a movement by women to achieve full civil rights in the United States.
Throughout these many years,generations of women have come together to affect these changes in the most
democratic ways: through meetings, petition drives, lobbying, public speaking, and nonviolent resistance.
They have worked very deliberately to create a better world, and they have succeeded hugely(Eisenberg & Ruthsdotter, 1998).
Women realized that in order to change the social views of women, they would have to develop their own
organizations and their own voice. Feminism kicked off with the first Women Conference in Seneca Falls,
America, in 1848. Women campaigned upon a whole range of issues; from guardianship of infants, property
rights, divorce, access to higher education and the medical professions, to equal pay and protective
legislation for women workers(Eisenberg & Ruthsdotter, 1998).
However, it was not until 1928 that all women – not just those over 30 and of the right property
qualifications – could legally vote(Eisenberg & Ruthsdotter, 1998). This was a crucial landmark
in the struggle for womens rights. Also in the 1920, the Women Bureau of the Department of Labor was
establish to regulate women & rights in the workplace, and Alice Paul drafted the Equal Rights Amendment
for the Constitution to ensure that men and women have equal rights throughout the United States (Eisenberg & Ruthsdotter, 1998).
Each decade continue to mark some victory for womens rights. In the 1940 and 1950 more and more women
became employed to support the war effort as well as compensate for the effects of the war. It became
evident that the state would have to begin to accept some responsibility for the welfare of families.
Together with the trade unions, the women’s movement fought hard for a welfare state system
which would provide this and act as a safety net for society’s most vulnerable (Eisenberg & Ruthsdotter, 1998).
The 1960 saw a second wave of feminism, and further accomplishments for the movement. President Kennedy
convened a Commission on the Status of Women, naming Eleanor Roosevelt as its chair. The report issued
by that commission in 1963 documented discrimination against women in virtually every area of American
life (Eisenberg & Ruthsdotter, 1998). This brought the need for reform and change to the forefront
for many state and local governments. Additionally, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed,
prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race, religion, and
national origin(Eisenberg & Ruthsdotter, 1998).
The feminist movement did not exist alone in the United States. Many countries have taken up the fight
for women rights. In some countries, religions beliefs and traditions, combined with ideas from elsewhere
[have been used] to justify gender equality(Sullivan, 2007, p 246). In the Arab world, many believe that
a misinterpretation of the Koran has lead to the lack of gender equality, and in truth, Islamic traditions
call for gender equality and womens rights to be upheld. For example, one of the pioneers
of Arab feminism, Qassem Amin, published a book in 1899 titled The Liberation of Women that called for
extending to women most of the same rights that men enjoyed(Sullivan, 2007, p 246). In addition,
even countries such as China and Cuba who are traditionally very conservative have had a feminist
movement that was supported by the Communist government.
The feminist movement has continued with an international focus in recent years with support from the
United Nations. Gender equality is embedded in the Charter of the United Nations. Consequently,
the United Nations has a history of promoting gender equality, starting with the first United Nations
World Conference on Women in Mexico in 1975, through Copenhagen, Denmark in 1980 and Nairobi, Kenya
in 1985 (Mayanja, 2005). The United Nations also fostered the historic Convention on the Elimination
of All Forms of Discrimination against women, sometimes referred to as the international bill of womens
rights. The UN continued the push for gender equality through other UN conferences and summits of the
1990s, concluding with the Fourth World.
Conference of Women which took place in Beijing in 1995. After these conferences growing number of
countries developed and implemented national gender-sensitive policies and programs in economic, social
and political spheres. Many countries successfully adopted gender-mainstreaming approach towards the
implementation of programs and policies designed for the empowerment of (Mayanja, 2005).
However, women internationally continue to face great challenges, including poverty, gender-based violence,
ensuring family survival, unemployment, illiteracy, discrimination in law, policy, and practice,
lack of positions of power, stereotypical attitudes and discriminatory practices, prevalence of HIV/AIDS and
other diseases and infection, and slave trafficking (Mayanja, 2005). While great achievements have been real
ized in the past decade and beyond with regards to the feminist movement, there is still a long way to go
before gender equality is reached internationally.
Gender inequality deeply rooted in societal institutions, entrenched attitudes and roles(Mayanja, 2005).
The United Nations has committed to the continuation of implementing gender equality policies internationally.
To achieve gender equality, what needs to be done is to translate the global commitments into policy at
the national level and ensure that the policies are fully implemented. The necessary commitments have been
articulated. They need to be followed by action and all actors must be creative in seeking ways to translate
these commitments into actions, taking into account the particular national contexts.
This decade should be the decade of action for gender equality(Mayanja, 2005).
- Eisenberg, Bonnie & Ruthsdotter, Mary (1998). Living the Legacy:
The Women’s Rights Movement 1848-1998. The National Womenâ History Project.
Retrieved August 23, 2008, from http://www.legacy98.org/move-hist.html
- Mayanja, Rachel (2005). Further Actions and Initiatives towards Gender Equality: Perspectives from the
United Nations. The Policy Dialogue on Gender Equality 2005 Tokyo Symposium.
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