Given that women make up 50% of the global population, and nearly 40% of the global workforce, the SDGs would not be complete without including a goal on gender equality. Adding to this the fact that women and girls continue to be subject to different forms of discrimination, violence and inequality on a daily basis around the world, SDG5 is crucial to achieve the ultimate aim of the SDGs- to “achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”.
The goal has a range of targets, going from tackling violence and discrimination against women and girls, to eliminating “all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation” (target 5.3), and ensuring equality in opportunities.
While one cannot deny the importance of this goal, and the need for rules, laws and guidelines to implement gender equality at a global scale and across the board in all spheres of life and society, achieving it is much easier said than done. A key weakness of the goal is that many of its targets actually rely on the need for people themselves to change their mindsets, their attitudes and their perspectives towards women and girls. The goal actually requires us, not only as individuals but also as societies, to put ourselves into question about the preconceived ideas, biases and prejudices we have towards the female gender.
What I mean here, and let me put myself on the spot using my own unconscious bias as an example, is that we all have blind spots, whether we like it or not. I was once, just a few years ago, asked to solve the following riddle:
While I sat there trying to think of the answer, coming up with scenarios in my head such as “the surgeon is the step-dad who considers his step-son as one of his own”, I missed the most obvious and simple answer.
The surgeon is the boy’s mother.
I have since then presented this riddle to numerous people of different cultures, backgrounds and most importantly gender. And for the majority, the same pondering, thinking and wondering happened..
This right here, is exactly what I mean when I say that a re-education and the questioning of society, and ourselves, needs to take place. Until the day we continue to, by default, think of surgeons as males, gender inequality will continue to persist. This, regardless of how many laws, rules and regulations we have in place.