Gender Equality and International Actions: Challenges and Opportunities

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Gender inequality persists globally with many countries still grappling with gender gaps, hindering social and economic development. Discrimination also has marginalized women in education, workplaces, and politics, while legal and economic barriers persist. Labor market must be facing stagnation in the last two decades, influenced by child care and societal norms. The Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan exacerbates women’s oppression. International efforts, like UNDP’s institutional reform, involve men to combat gender inequality. Media, represented by the Barbie movie, plays an important role to challenge norms and empower by reshaping perception of gender roles through positive representation.

Nowadays, low commitment to gender equality is still an important global problem. The World Economic Forum (2021) revealed that countries such as Afghanistan and India are still battling with gender gap. Gender equality is not merely a basic human entitlement, but it is also a crucial driver of social and economic development. For a long time, gender-based discrimination placed women or girls subordinate to men in terms of education access, workplace, political spheres, or even crucial things like domestic affairs. This discriminatory trend persists as legal obstacles — explicitly prohibiting women from certain professions — while in economic barriers such as wage disparity which obstruct women from experiencing complete equality.

Research have indicated that being exposed to stereotypical representations of gender and distinct gender segregation correlates with three things “(1) preferences for media content, games, toys, and activities that align with gender norms; (2) conventional perspective of gender roles and professions, and personality traits as well as; (3) attitudes regarding expectations for future life paths. Alongside gender conflict, reconfiguring the levels of collaboration from relevant stakeholders for a robust commitment, thinking through the gender lens and building capacities using innovation and technological change was one of the key takeaways during the 6th Gender Equality Summit 2023 in New Delhi five months ago. Commitment to empower women with its emphasis on enhanced government collaboration and leverage technological advancement has been a prioritized target.

The Reality of International Gender Inequality

a. Gender Gap in Labour Market : Facing Stagnation

Despite significant strides have been made towards advancing gender equality in the realm of employment, certain factors seem to be preventing its rapid advancement. Women are substantially less likely than men in the labor market. In 2022, the discrepancy in labor force participation between genders was 29.2 percentage points among age 23 to 54. Female participation was recorded at 61.4 percent while male participation stood at 90.6 percent. Generally, the gender gap in jobs has stagnated in the last two decades (Figure 2). Over the same period, unemployment rates for both women and men have shown minimal disparity. Fluctuations caused by the financial crisis and COVID-19 have undeniably impact the measures of labor underutilization for both genders.

A significant factor for lowering women’s labor participation globally is childcare responsibilities. Mothers with young children tend to engage less in the labor market compared to their peers, a phenomenon known as the “motherhood penalty.” On the other hand, men who become fathers may experience career advancement, higher salary, and job stability due to the presumed that they are more dedicated and responsible. This phenomenon, emphasizing the positive influence of fatherhood, is labeled as a “paternity premium.” As an example of extreme gender discrimination, we can take a look at the Taliban situation.

b. Fear, Despair, and Little Hope : Afghanistan Amid Taliban Rules

Since the takeover of Afghanistan by Taliban in August 2021, human rights violations against women have mounted steadily (UN Women, 2022). Despite their initial agreement that women would be permitted to exercise their rights under Sharia law, including the right to work and study. Taliban enforced prohibitions on girls advancing beyond sixth grade in education and forbid women seeking employment outside their homes.

Restriction on women’s movement and bodies has been intensifying. In May 2022, Taliban issued a mandate for women to cover their faces in public and remain at home except for essential activities. They also eliminated women’s roles in de facto administrations. Even worse, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs has been dismantled which essentially eradicated women’s ability to engage in political participation.

International Efforts to Tackle Gender Inequality

a. Institutional Reform : UNDP’s Committed Action

Acknowledging the urgency of addressing this issue, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has taken a leading role in countering gender inequality. UNDP aims to establish a framework for gender support within country offices, shifting their focus from rigid methods to break down ingrained obstacles. A new network of gender specialists including a group of economists and experts on gender equality will offer immediate assistance to country offices and UNDP teams whenever needed. The UNDP will establish groups of male peers to encourage introspection and collaborative efforts aimed at driving organizational transformation. Enforcing a strict policy against sexual harassment and exploitation means that UNDP give zero tolerate when such conduct within its workplace or in its interactions with partner and communities.

b. The Importance of Man Roles

The Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls (WGDAWG) considers the importance of mobilizing and activating a broad range of actors to advance women’s and girls’ human rights and change gender norms. The engagement of men and boys in achieving gender equality is critical because they have a key responsibility and play a pivotal role. It’s imperative to educate men about women’s perspectives, obstacles, and experiences. They should then actively participate as important allies, collaboratively striving to create a world where both men and women can prosper equitably. Men who mostly hold privileged positions across various social, political, and economic spheres can leverage their influence to amplify messages of equality and lead by example among their peers.

c. Voicing Gender Equality through Film: Exploring the Role of Media

On July 19th, 2023, the premiere of the Barbie sparked extensive discussions about trending subjects. As a children’s toy character, Barbie not only brings a nostalgic ambience to the audience, but also conveys gender inequality. Starring Margot Robbie, Barbie movie storyline disrupts established gender stereotypes by showcasing characters who reject conventional norms. This movie emphasizes the importance of self-confidence and believing in someone regardless of gender. Barbie also encourages every girl to pursue their dreams and show that each individual can be proficient in various fields.

Media plays considerable influence in shaping outlooks and mindsets. The Barbie film exemplifies how favorable portrayal can change society’s perception of gender roles. Through the portrayal of women as proficient leaders, adventurers, and problem solvers, it contributes to reshaping societal norms and fostering empowerment.

Almiraneysa Faihanadika is an ISAFIS Career and Organizational Development member. She is currently pursuing third year of dental studies at Universitas Indonesia. Despite her health-oriented background, she enthusiastically advocates social issues driven by her desire to raise awareness of social problems. For discussion and collaboration, contact through


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