Having United Nations Headquarters in New York in September

Having the privilege to live in one of the so called
‘developed’ countries makes us think that all the other ones all over the world
have reached the same level of growth. Unfortunately, there are still many
problems for the achievement of development that need to be solved. In fact, many
organizations are trying to work on these issues and most governments are willing
to collaborate to enhance the situation. To prove this, more than 150 world
leaders’ reunited at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in September
2015. Their main aim was to adopt an ambitious new sustainable development agenda. ‘Transforming Our World: 2030 Agenda for Sustainable
Development’ was the result of a three-day meeting in which the outcome was
a declaration regarding seventeen sustainable goals and one hundred and
seventy-nine targets. All objectives concerned the most important and common
dilemmas of our time: poverty, health, education, hanger, environment, economic
growth, and gender equalities. Focusing on gender equalities, goal number five
of the UN Declaration explains how empowering women and girls’ rights should be
essential for implementing growth; but also, all forms of violence, both in the
public and in the private spheres, including trafficking, sexual exploitations,
genital mutilations should be banned to achieve human rights and a prosperous
and sustainable world.

 

Through the years many effort have been made regarding the
realization and the preservation of gender equality. For example, the
Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global
intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender
equality and the empowerment of women. It promotes women’s rights and documents
the reality of their lives throughout the world. The commission adopts
multi-year work programmes to appraise progress and make further recommendations
to accelerate the implementation of Platform for Actions, which were adopted
for the first time for the World Conference of Human Rights, and states that human
rights of women and girl child are an inalienable, integral and indivisible
part of universal human rights. The first multi-year programme dates back to
1987, and it contained priority themes for discussion and action at its annual
sessions. For examples themes for 2017 were: ‘Priority theme: Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of
work. Review theme: Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the
Millennium Development Goals for women and girls, from the 58th session of the
CSW.’ While for 2018 ‘Priority theme:
Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment
of rural women and girls. Review theme: Participation in and access of women to
the media, and information and communications technologies and their impact on
and use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women, from the
47th session of the CSW.’ 1

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Women’s situation differs, of course, from one country to
another. Gender equality have been nearly reached in developed countries where women
are economically empowered and have a voice in society. The situation changes speaking
of developing countries where women are generally silent and their voice has
been stifled by economic and cultural factors. Poor countries by no means have
a monopoly on gender inequality; in fact, disparities in health, education, and
bargaining of power within marriage tend to be larger in countries with low GDP
per capita.

Speaking of health as one of the dilemma in reaching gender
equality, we can prove how women frequently face discrimination in this sector.
In South Asia, for example, studies show that families are far more likely to
take an ill boy than an ill girl to a health centre and women are often denied
reproductive rights whether legally or illegally. Female genital
mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is a health gender tragedy and it is recognised as a
horrific violation of human rights. It is mostly practised in sub-Saharan
Africa and the Middle East. The UNICEF estimated in 2016 that 200 million women
living today in 30 countries have undergone these procedures. This practice,
does not only result from decisions made by men but many mothers, who have
undergone FGM/C also require their daughters to do so. The problem is that, if
in a society other families practice this type of activities, it becomes
difficult for one family to refuse to take part to them because in doing so the
daughter will result ‘dishonoured’ and this will ruin her marriageability.
Luckily, there are encouraging signs of progress of the FGM/C practices also
thanks to the work of locally based NGO’s and similar organizations.

Focusing on education, we need to analyse the fact that
various studies show that the expansion of basic schooling of female earns
among the very highest rates of returns of every investment. As a matter of
fact, the global cost of failing to educate girls is about $92 billion a year.
Studies by the United Nations, the World Bank and other agencies have concluded
that the social benefits alone of increased education of girls is more than
sufficient to cover its costs. But, evidence from countries such as Bangladesh,
Pakistan and India shows that we cannot assume that education of women will
increase automatically with increases in family income.

Cultural factors remain one the most critical issues in both
themes which in any case are strictly correlated – for example, education of
girls has also shown to be one of the most cost effective means of improving
local health standards.

In many parts of Asia, a boy provides future economic
benefits, such as support of parents in their old age, a possible dowry upon
marriage, remaining in the family’s farm to work in the adulthood. A girl in
contrast, require a dowry upon marriage, often at a young age and will move for
sure to the village of her husband’s family, becoming responsible for the
welfare of her husband’s parents rather than her own. If we analyse a situation
closely, a girl from a poor rural family in South Asia won’t have many
alternatives in life except serving a husband and his family; indeed,
ironically a more educated girl may be considered less marriageable.

For the parents, treatment of disease may be expensive and
may require several days lost from work to go into town for medical attention.
Empirical studies demonstrate what we might guess from these perverse incentives:
Often more strenuous efforts are made to save the life of a son than a
daughter, and girls generally receive less schooling than boys.

The bias toward boys helps explain the missing women’
mystery. In Asia, the United Nations has found that there are far fewer females
as a share of the population than would be predicted by demographic norms.
Estimating from developed-country gender ratios, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen
concluded that worldwide ‘many more than’ 100 million women are ‘missing’.
These conditions are continuing to worsen in China and India, and this would
represent a huge problem since many young males will be unable to marry and
this would increase the chances for future social instabilities. But, Amartya
Sen also noted that, dearth of women is not just a matter of poverty per se
because in Africa, where poverty is most severe, there are about 2% more women
than men. Although this number is not as high as in western Europe or North
America, it is still much higher than in Asia, which in contrast has higher
income on average.

A survey of 2010, estimated the ratio of males to females
that in China was 1.06 and in India was 1.08, while in the USA, UK or Canada
was 0.98. This is the proof that males are more than women and the bad news is
that the situation may be worsening in several countries, especially in Asia.
Maintaining China as an example, the Chinese Academy of Science estimated
always in a 2010 report, that 119.5 boys were born for every 100 girls in 2009.
Even though a difference of ten might seem nothing it become consistent if we
measure it on thousands of people and also the main cause of this outcome was
selective abortion. In India, the ratio is again very high and even reach 112.
Often, these average measures cannot take a reliant picture of heavy inequalities
in specific regions. Up to now, we mentioned Asia but also Africa face a
critical situation regarding gender equality; anyhow some studies findings
found a small pro-female bias and other a small rising pro-mal bias.

As previously mentioned, better educated mother, improve
prospects for both her sons’ and daughters’ not only health and education but
also life. In fact, the nutritional level of children in rural areas improve
only if mothers had the possibility to be educated. Studies conducted by Harold
Alderman and Marito Garcia reported that the incidence of child stunting would
be reduced by a quarter of current levels (from 63.3% to 47.1% in their sample
in Pakistan) if female obtained a primary level education. The incredible thing
is that they noted that the impact of the project would have a more effective
impact than a 10% increase in per capita income.

Also, we need to remember that education is strictly
correlated with health is obvious how a higher level of mother’s education
brings an implementation also in health and a benefit for children.

All this theories and evidences prove how an increase in
family income do not automatically represent an increase in the whole status of
a family.

If higher income cannot be expected to necessarily lead to higher
health and education, as we will show in subsequent sections, there are no
guarantees that higher health or education will lead to higher productivities
and incomes. Much depends on the context, on whether gains from income growth
and also the benefits of public investments in health and education and other
infra- structure are shared equitably.

 

In all this analysis of gender equality we always need to
remember that we live in the twenty-first century where the main means of
communication are the medias. For this reason, the obvious question is: does
the media influence gender equality? If yes, how?

First of all, we need to specify what is a social media? It is
a means of connecting people, that permits all sorts of what we called mass
scale communication. Its services and tools use the internet to make
communication easier, especially where communication canals are limited.

This limitations are themselves the aspects that make social
media different from the other kind of media: online activity encourages
participation and in fact in this case the audience can also be the content
provider; another symbol is their openness in encouraging flows of information,
comments and recognition thanks to different activities; social media can also
be defined as a community where virtual encounters effectively provide sharing
of ideas.

Being a powerful tool their primary use is: publishing,
sharing, networking, buying, localization.

So, media play an essential role in our everyday lives. For
this reason, partnering with private sector organizations, UN Women has been
promoting the use of media, especially social media, as a powerful tool to
advocate for elimination of violence against female and promote gender
equality. Evidence has been shown by the outcome of a project designed by
Partners for Prevention called ‘Engaging
Young Men through Social Media for the Prevention of Violence against Women’.
Partners for Prevention is a UNDP, UNFPA, UN Women and UNV regional joint
programme for gender-based violence prevention in Asia and the Pacific.

The use of social media such as YouTube, Facebook and other
blogging sites has become part of the daily lives of millions of people in Asia
where there are more than 1,076,000,000 internet users – more than any other
region of the rest of the world – and the world fastest growing segment of
social network users in the world. Since this means of communication has
demonstrated its strength to affect social actors ability to change power
relations in society we need to understand better the real potential of this
tool especially in influencing and mobilizing people. To prevent violence
against women (VAW) were supported campaigns to raise awareness and motivate –
focused on the youngest pat of society – to take action to prevent VAW. Three
were the operations implemented in 2011/2012: ‘Must Bol’, conducted by Community the Youth Collective (CYC), a
youth NGO from Delhi; ‘Love Journey’
campaign made by Peace and Development Vietnam, a Spanish NGO in Hanoi; and
last but not the least the ’17 Man’
campaign built by Eastern Campus, in China by a public relations company with
the guidance from UN Women China.

The three campaigns answered some specific questions such as
‘can social media help to bring about changes in awareness, attitudes and
behaviours?’ and ‘what kinds of violations against women prevention objectives
can social media help influence?’.

There are some ethical principles that need to be considered
during social media campaigns for the prevention of VAW such as: victims of
violence must be put under safety and support, in order to deeply understand an
effective response system which can include collaboration and coordination;
assure commitment to gender justice, because it cannot be just grounded in
feminist perceptions but must conceive also men’s support and actions; evidence
and innovation, since the field is relatively new evidence of its effectiveness
must be found to help women; ethics and safety; long-term vision, building
projects for the future should help to build a sustainable foundations and
drive violence prevention effort foreword.

Furthermore, we can consider other important points that
must be met when social media campaigning. It is important that any story or
research, or speech from people that have experienced violence, should protect
their confidentiality and privacy. Also, violations against women are
represented as a cross-cutting study, in all communities and socio-economic
groups. Resources must not be used to negatively describe one specific sector
of society as being worse than another. Identification should be avoided unless
it is permitted by the person who has been interviewed. In fact, the use of images
and the identification of women’s shelters should not victimise or stigmatised
the victim in question.

Evidence of this effective tools for social media
campaigning come from India, China and Vietnam.

The three campaign previously mentioned showed three
different uses: the ‘Love Journey’ campaign served as a forefront while the
’17Men’ campaign supported a more traditional view, and finally the ‘Must Bol’
campaign adopted the characteristics of both the previous two.

Every campaign represented a success. However, social media
are just one part in preventing VAW, because many other factors and aspects
must be counted to reach the final goal. In fact, when social media is
connected to other types of interventions and actions, it can be a powerful and
effective tool to make a change.

‘The conclusions of the three researches showed that social
media can actually play an important part in the spectrum of actions that need
to take place to prevent violence against women; social media can be a
mobilizing force and a tool for creating dialogue and fostering an enabling
environment, but on its own will most likely not change gender norms; social
media is most effective when connected to other on the ground, interpersonal
activities.’2

 

All the previous statements have sustained that gender
inequality is still present just in developing countries, and poor countries
with low GDP per capita. But exactly combining the media and the developed
world, a huge scandal about ‘sexual harassment’ exploded in Hollywood in 2017.

Until 1979 the term ‘sexual harassment’ was not recognised
as a legal concept. In October 2017 something happened and Hollywood’s women
decided to take a clear position and accused many famous and respected men of
sexual harassment. In fact, some of the biggest names in arts and entertainment
have been caught up in a proper scandal that overturned Hollywood.

This phenomenon has also been called the ‘Weinstein effect’
because were exactly the first accusations against the film producer Harvey
Weinstein that launched a proper worldwide wave of accusation since then, 148
have been accused of sexual misconduct, ranging from inappropriate texts to
groping to rape. These are the accused, from Hollywood and Washington, from
Silicon Valley and New York. Not here are those whose names haven’t been big
enough to garner national headlines and the many more who haven’t been named at
all, whose identities are only known by those who shared #metoo.3

1
UN Women. (2018). Commission on the Status of Women. online Available at: http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw
Accessed 19 Jan. 2018.

 

2
Partners4prevention.org. (2018). Cite a Website – Cite This For Me. online
Available at:
http://www.partners4prevention.org/sites/default/files/resources/socialmedia_final.pdf
Accessed 17 Jan. 2018.

 

3
USA TODAY. (2018). The Harvey Weinstein effect. online Available at:
https://www.usatoday.com/pages/interactives/life/the-harvey-weinstein-effect/
Accessed 20 Jan. 2018.