Gender and equality
Not only is equality a human right and an essential part of a democratic society, it is also intimately linked to poverty reduction. Forum Syd defines gender as a social construction that reflects the social and cultural interpretations of biological sexes. In this construction lie norms of how women and men, girls and boys, should be and behave in a given society. Gender is formed in relations between people and varies through time and place. Women and men are not homogeneous categories. It is essential to further analyse these groups and see how gender interacts with other important social dimensions such as age, ethnicity, different abilities, minority status, race etc.
Equality is not only a women’s issue
Unequal gender power relations create structural obstacles for women and girls in all spheres of society. Women are excluded from participating in peace processes and in the rebuilding of societies. Women are underrepresented in decision making and discussions about peace and climate change, among others, even though women are most affected by the consequences of climate change. Even if sexual discrimination affects women more than men, equality is not only a women’s issue and it is essential that both men and women are involved in the promotion of equality.
It is critical to address masculinities
Masculinity refers to those perceived notions and ideas about how men and boys are expected to behave in a given society. These social norms and pressures can lead not only to women’s increased vulnerability and discrimination, but also to the suffering of boys and men, who may experience fear of not being able to fulfil this role, low self-esteem and loss of male identity. This suffering can generate emotional tension and internal conflict expressed through fear, anger, self-hatred and often aggression towards women and girls. A key element in gender equality work is to make men aware of the benefits of gender equality and involve them in the fight to challenge gender norms and transform gender power relations. If true equality is to be achieved, the power structures and traditional gender norms need to be transformed.