The ILO (2007, p. 89) states, “Gender refers to the socially constructed differences and relations between males and females. These vary widely among societies and cultures and change over time.” Indeed, gender is a broader concept that also addresses the issues of other sexual minorities socially discriminated or excluded.
The 2016 theme for the International Women’s Day Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality can be termed as adventurous, rather than farce. The world has already spent billions on women development; however, the majority of women are still extremely vulnerable to direct gender-based discriminations across the globe. Despite a huge investment in women development, with numerous specialized agencies in action, gender disparity has expanded into a profit-making industry. The undeniable global reality is that the number of women with access to education, health or, in general, an adequate standard of living, is far lower even today. Therefore, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the world to devote solid funding, courageous advocacy and unbending political will towards achieving the gender equality in the globe. The Secretary-General’s idea carries a deeper underlying meaning, especially for a country like Nepal, where all-pervasive all-sector corruption buries moral strength, so essential for democracy to function in a natural way.
The solid funding has to address the core issues that accelerate women empowerment. The best area to spend in is education, an education that empowers women from analytical and critical perspectives. Should they be allowed to go through academic capacity building stages, they gain a level to judge their own status as well as that of other women, seeking to detect causes and effects of their under-privileged conditions.
Moreover, it would be good to understand the term ‘solid funding’ in terms of result-oriented specificities, concrete monitoring and evaluation, with visible acts of accountability. The allocation of funds alone would not suffice. The most essential thing is to utilize it productively and precisely so as to achieve sustainable results.
Similarly, it would not be very fruitful to understand ‘courageous advocacy’ in a conventional manner. Courageous advocacy in favor of gender equality involves moral courage to say white is white and black is black. In Nepal, women political representatives appear very feeble-minded as far as their political exercises are concerned. They are little exposed to gender advocacy to a proper degree.
The current degree and effectiveness of advocacy do not appear adequate. The greatest chunks of advocacy money have been spent on paper work and oral interaction programs in hotels. The messages of hotel-based seminars and interaction programs have not yet reached the majority of grassroots women, who have little media literacy. Even if they get scanty amount of information from the media outlets to which they might have access, they are unable to process it into a desired meaning. In other words, women’s vulnerabilities exist in different forms despite frequent professional advocacy. Thus, the solid funding, indeed, has to concretely address the most vulnerable majority of women, who never know how huge sum of money is being daily spent on the advocacy in their name.
For an unbending political will, the political parties mostly requires moral integrity and political insight—rare things in the globe. Political forces misunderstand themselves. While they misunderstand themselves, they tend to blindly teach the world to do this and that. One type of their misunderstanding is that individuals who amass wealth in some ways must be permitted to over-rule the world. Isn’t it a matter of common sense that the Earth cannot be privatized and smuggled away to heaven? Why do the world’s political forces deliberately make policies that allow the few to seize most of the resources while the suffering majority are out of their mental frame?
Since achieving gender equality is a human-centric approach, the best philosophy available in the globe should be explored. The Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path is the most scientific methodology ever developed by human beings. What transformed the Buddha from a normal human being into an enlightened one is often referred to as the Vipassana, an empirical science focused on the mind-body relationships and their biochemical effects. This word may not have the exact counterpart for interpretation. But it refers to a process of investigating the mind-matter relationship to develop an equanimous subconscious mind. The greatest contribution that the Noble Eightfold Path has made is that it has a methodology to defeat prejudices in the form of craving for or averting something. The Buddha has taught us a middle path for becoming peaceful and happy. He has simply pointed out how our likes and dislikes are cultivated in our subconscious mind, which automatically deepens and multiplies them.
Since gender discrimination is the habit cultured by our subconscious mind, mere laws and policies cannot combat this problem. It demands our psychological transformation. The Noble Eightfold Path is the best tool for it.
ILO. (2007). ABC of Women Workers’ Rights and Gender Equality. Geneva: ILO.
UN. (2016). International Women’s Day 8 March. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/en/events/womensday/