Let me say that one more time. Gender equality is not a women’s issue.
Women, you may be thinking “well, duh.” And men, you may have already left. But allow me the chance to explain why this is so important. Whatever preconceived notions about gender equality you may have, we need to normalize the fact that gender equality is not a women’s issue; it is a human rights issue, a threat to security, and a developmental setback. And like any global issue it’s going to take all sides working together to actually make change.
Gender equality is not going to improve without men’s full participation because, well, that’s where the power is. If you need examples about gender inequality today, look at the gender-based violence reports or the latest abortion laws in the U.S. or education rates for boys versus girls around the world.
Issues surrounding gender equality may not impact you directly. But one day they may whether it has to do with your family, friends or yourself.
The best ways to change the disparity between genders at a foundational level is to become aware of when gender roles are in place and open up the conversation with surrounding people. Because gender roles are so ingrained in our culture, we may not notice a situation that clearly benefits one group or creates any inequality. Gender inequality starts with the basics like a single word or action and leads into greater problems like how we view women’s unpaid work at home or social roles. When we speak openly about something we disagree with, big or small, we can move on together.
So we’ve determined that the major issue with gender equality is our embedded social norms and lack of male support. But a more cohesive way to start the conversation on gender equality is through organizations. Organizations that include men in women empowerment reforms are crucial to ensuring long-term change.
A powerful organization making this critical stride is Male Advocacy for Gender Equality (MAFGE). MAFGE is a nonprofit organization from Tanzania that is working to create a safer and richer community by educating men on women’s rights. By calling men to action and challenging them to get involved and empower women, the organization is “embedding into [their] cultural practices and beliefs the true notion that women are valuable and, in every sense of the word, EQUAL to men.”
MAFGE is establishing projects that provide gender education in primary schools and other institutions. Through these projects, boys in primary schools are taught their social roles, values, and male and female sexual health to prevent abuse and social negligence later in their lives. At other institutions, men are taught the “importance of educating a girl, the rights to land for women and importance of involving women in a variety of decisions concerning the economic state and performance of that institution.”
Nonprofits such as MAFGE are the organizations needed to improve social norms. Education and communication about gender and social roles can make all the difference in equalizing social norms and values. Our conversations around gender equality can help heal toxic masculinity and protect and empower those of any gender, race or class. I encourage you to start becoming aware of intersectional gender inequality going on around you based on gender roles and values.
I also encourage you to support women’s organizations near you like Planned Parenthood and take a look at the UN Women’s page to stay updated on the latest news on gender inequality around the world, in real time. While gender inequality is a different story for each individual, it is a very real issue and one that needs to be addressed by all parties.