Prof. Dr. Pratik Mungekar participated as a Keynote Speaker in an International Debate between Men & Women & delivered his talk on Gender Inequality, gap, Parity, Equity & Equality organized by Successworld1academy. He expressed his Heartfelt gratitude to queen Nadia Harihar from France for the Invitation.
We have achieved much in recent history on the path to gender equality, but we have a long way to go to ensure equal endowments, participation, and voice for women.
The stakes are even higher now that the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) is ravaging the world, as times of great crisis often put women on the front lines. Women predominate in key roles as nurses, social workers, and caregivers. They are also working as doctors and volunteers, and as political and community leaders making critical decisions about how to address the public health, social, and economic effects of the crisis. Women’s participation will be vital to our success against this shared global threat.
Let us first acknowledge the progress made so far…
Today, we tend to take it for granted that women can vote. But – with the exception of a few frontrunners like New Zealand, Australia, and Finland – universal suffrage became a reality only after World War I. Eventually, voting rights for women were introduced into international law in 1948 by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
Women have also taken advantage of increased opportunities to serve as leaders. In 2019, women held nearly 1 in 4 legislative seats worldwide – more than double their share in 1995. Management positions are also more likely to be held by women now than twenty years ago, though parity is still a long way off.
With greater representation comes improved outcomes. Looking at education, the world has seen enormous progress in reducing gaps between girls and boys across a variety of important areas such as enrollment rates and literacy outcomes.
In health, fewer mothers are dying in childbirth and significant increases in female life expectancy have followed. With few exceptions, women now outlive men in virtually every country.
In terms of labor participation, more women in countries at every level of income have been engaging in economic activities beyond non-market work in the home.
Around the world, many national reforms have been enacted in recent years to improve the status of women in the workplace, in marriage, and especially to protect women from violence.
Yet, there is still a long way to go…
Despite this meaningful progress, important gender gaps remain. These vary in scale from country to country and take different forms – from physical violence and deprivations to unequal opportunities in work or political life.
The World Health Organization estimates that over 1 in 3 women worldwide will experience violence in their lifetime.
Sadly, the risk of being subjected to violence increases in times of distress, such as the outbreak of COVID-19. The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Dubravka Simonovic, warned that it was “very likely that rates of widespread domestic violence will increase, as already suggested by initial police and hotline reports.”
Gender disparities also take shape in unequal opportunities to participate fully in economic life. UN Women found that women are less likely than men to participate in the labor market and more likely to be unemployed.
Women are paid less, earning 77 cents to every dollar earned by a man, and bear disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care and domestic work (performing 76 percent of total hours of unpaid care work worldwide). In fact, if women’s unpaid work were assigned a monetary value, one study of six countries has suggested that it would constitute between 10 and 39 percent of GDP.
These opportunity gaps suggest that women could be disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Women make up a larger share of health and social care workers around the world: 70 percent in 104 countries. Also, early analysis from the World Bank indicates that those in caregiving roles may face an increased burden in the wake of school closures, with working mothers finding themselves even more stretched than usual in trying to juggle home-based work, home-schooling, childcare, and housework.
Inequality of access is also a key concern. Globally, nearly 40 percent of women in wage employment are estimated to lack access to social protection.
Women are less likely than men to have access to financial institutions or to have a bank account. Although women-owned enterprises represent more than 30 percent of registered businesses worldwide, only 10 percent of women entrepreneurs have the capital they need to grow their businesses.
These gender gaps impose real costs on society…
As the World Bank Group’s Women, Business, and the Law 2020 points out, “equality of opportunity is good economics.” Indeed, it is estimated that women’s lagging participation in employment and entrepreneurship cost the world about 15 percent of its GDP.
In considering a “full potential” scenario in which women participated in the economy identically to men, McKinsey concluded that this would add $28 trillion (26 percent) to annual global GDP by 2025 as compared to business as usual.
Yet when girls are allowed to dream and realize their potential, we are all better off…
To quote the famous early 20th century Armenian novelist and activist, Zabel Yesayan, “a woman is not born into this world to be pleasing. A woman is born to develop her mental, moral and physical abilities.”
Over the course of history, many women have embarked on a path of self-realization to the benefit of our society. Some are famous, some less so, but each contributed to advancing the world, whether by promoting human rights and peace, forging ahead in science, or serving on the front lines to save human lives and protect public health.
Despite the added burdens, crises present an opportunity to improve gender equality…
Unfortunately, we are likely to see some setbacks in gender equality during the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. The European Institute of Gender Equality has stated that the closure or near-closure of businesses could have a severe effect on women-dominated professions (such as flight attendants, hairdressers, and tour operators), and unpaid care work will continue to increase.
In highlighting the gendered impact of COVID-19, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated that, “Targeted measures to address the disproportionate impact of the crisis on women and girls are needed.”
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The COVID-19 crisis has put unprecedented pressure on governments, development organizations, and communities. While we strive urgently to respond, we should not lose sight of our goal to achieve gender equality. Instead, we should make it part of our overall effort to tackle these unprecedented challenges and come out stronger afterward.
We appreciate the recognition by the G7 and W7 that, notwithstanding the progress made by women in the world, we do not have a single country that has achieved gender equality. So we have a lot of work, and the work is universal: whether we are East, West, North, South, rich or poor, these issues bind all of us as humanity.
If we think, for instance, of the move from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals, one recognition in the Sustainable Development Goals is the universality of the agenda of issues that impact humanity.
In the Sustainable Development Goals, we emphasize the importance of climate change. If you mess up your forest in one part of the world, it will mess up people in another part of the world.
The issue of peace is also universal. If we do not have peace in one part of the world, no one has peace anywhere in the world.
The issue of inequality is universal, between and within countries. The current extent of inequality means that people move around the world looking for means of survival and all of us will have to deal with the issue of inequality.
Gender inequality is a universal issue. Women everywhere in the world want equal pay. Women everywhere in the world want to control and decide what to do with their own bodies. And without women in the workplace, everywhere in the world, all of our economies do not grow to the extent that they need to grow.
Economic justice facilitates economic growth, and inclusive growth requires more women to be in the workplace. So, there are many common issues that women need to discuss, and that makes the issue of gender equality one of the most globalized issues of our time.
Once, the world together fought to end slavery. It was a universal issue. It did not have to be a slave’s fight to end slavery. The world, and the people of good will in the world, united to end it. The world fought racism, colonialism and apartheid together and brought them to an end. It was not just the affected people who fought. The world has to fight gender inequality together. It is not just women who must fight; men and women must fight together for us to achieve the kind of change that we desire. The nice thing is that victory is for all.
McKinsey’s research tells us that if women’s economic participation were to be at the same level as men, by 2025 there is a cool $28 trillion that could be added to the world’s economic growth. It requires all of us to want to do something about that to achieve the change for all of us.
We have just come out of two very meaningful engagements as UN Women. The first is the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, which looked at barriers to women’s economic empowerment and participation, starting from the barriers that are experienced by girls, such as in education, child marriage, and the different violations that girls experience that stop them from realizing their potential.
We have also just finished the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women, where we looked at women in the changing world of work. These two dialogues reached the same conclusions: the importance of macroeconomic policies that recognize the role and the participation of women, starting with issues like gender-responsive budgeting. Those macroeconomic policies recognize that all countries have babies, babies need childcare, and childcare needs to be accessible and affordable, otherwise millions and millions of women cannot participate effectively politically and economically. The fact that in most countries looking after children is a private matter for women is a barrier to their full economic participation.
Men have to work so hard to become corporate animals and do not have time to be fathers. That stops them from being able to contribute to the care services of the family and in the process, stops women from being able to participate in the labour market. So, this is change that must happen: more men in the care economy, and more women in the labour market.
We also found, in the work that we did both in the High-Level Panel and in the Commission on the Status of Women, the importance of women controlling their own bodies; of having autonomy without discrimination; having access and respect for their rights, both sexual and reproductive rights, and having access to services. The unmet needs of women, in the area for instance of family planning, are such that many women are having children that they do not want, that they cannot afford, only because we are unable to give them the much-needed lifesaving services that organizations such as UNFPA provide.
We also uncovered in the discussion and the work something that we all know; the importance of equal pay and of the fact that men and women alike want to be paid wages that are equal to the contribution that we make. That is not too much to ask for any worker. Up to now, that right does not exist for women in most parts of the world; this is a great robbery. We are therefore calling for governments, private sector, and ourselves to mobilize appropriately to change this.
Of course, most women are at the base of the income pyramid, which means that they are underpaid and they are also in work for which there is no minimum wage. Those women, caught on what we call the “sticky floors”, cannot rise up, and will always live closer to poverty than prosperity. So, laws and facilitation of minimum wages are critical to move women past the sticky floors, just as women on boards and women executives play a critical role in making sure that the glass ceiling—and the steel ceiling, for that matter—are removed.
These are some of the examples that are universal, that we can all work on in every part of the world.
I want to salute all the men who are in the room. The role of men and boys is critical. To the extent that there is historic affirmative action everywhere in the world—which is why they are where they are—we need men to turn the terms around and make sure that there is affirmative action for women and we can have equality for all.