As a global community, we have almost unanimously agreed that girls have the exact same rights as boys and women, as men. Nearly every country on the planet has signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The latter is the most broadly translated document in the world, and can be found in dialects from Abkhaz to Zulu!
Yet today, gender inequality is still being reckoned with everywhere, even in certain spheres of Canadian life. Gender violence still spans cultures and social groups, religion and education levels. It is deeply rooted in gender inequalities, in cultural norms that assert men's superiority and power over women, and in rigid norms about men's and women's roles.
At World Vision, we have learned that promoting gender equality and women's empowerment is core to effective and sustainable development. Lack of gender equality can be damaging, not only to girls and women, but to their entire societies.
Gender inequality and gender-based violence costs everyone. One in every three women will be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Little boys may come of age, seeing this happening to their mothers and sisters. The cycle can easily perpetuate. In its extreme form, gender-based violence manifests through crimes such as rape and honor killing, and brutal cultural practices such as female genital mutilation and early marriage. In cases where girl and women are harmed or killed, an entire family can be drastically impacted by the event.
But gender-based violence also manifests in subtler and even more pervasive ways, such as the restriction of actions and opinions, and control over choices and resources. When a girl is kept away from school, there may be little to challenge these approaches, and almost nowhere to turn for help in a crisis.