Gender equality continues to be one of the largest movements of our generation. Out of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the United Nations in 2000, the third goal listed is “promote gender equality and empower women.”
November 25th marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and launched the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign which concludes on December 10, Human Rights Day. Pink may be the colour typically associated with girls and women but to mark this 16-day campaign the United Nations is encouraging people to Orange YOUR Neighbourhood to promote gender equality while taking action to end violence against women and girls around the world.
The United Nations estimates that globally, one in three women will experience violence at some point in her life. Violence against women takes many forms including: physical, sexual, psychological and economic. Gender discrimination is not just a private problem; it also affects women in the workplace. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon believes that all people play a role in changing these statistics. “Everyone has a responsibility to prevent and end violence against women and girls, starting by challenging the culture of discrimination that allows it to continue” he says.
Benjamin Kumpf, Innovation Specialist at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is deeply passionate about promoting gender equality and believes that both individuals and also businesses play a role in advancing gender equality and eliminating gender-based violence. “We strive to mobilize people, communities and increasingly unusual suspects, such as businesses, for social good. Private organizations that seriously commit to gender equality and make practical steps to empower women and address gender barriers have the power to change not only their own organizations but also their environments” he says. Kumpf notes that the movement for gender equality is largely driven by women, but he urges men to become more involved in advancing women’s rights and especially in preventing gender-based violence. “Gender issues affect us all. When you change the life of a girl you not only impact her life but also her family and community. Changing gender norms means changing dominant attitudes, power relations and also privileges. It is time for men to take a stronger stand.”
With the help of Kumpf, UNDP and the UN Foundation, I have compiled a list of some easy ways that you can take action today to help “paint the world orange” and promote gender equality in your workplace.
5 Ways You Can Promote Gender-Equality in Your Workplace:
1. Build an inclusive culture in your workplace. People are more likely to stand up to issues like harassment, bullying and gender-based violence if it is made clear that this is not tolerated in your work environment. Developing a set of core values that your organization adheres to and displaying them in the office for all to see is a great start. Other ideas include fostering a sense of team cohesion through team-building activities at your monthly meetings, guest speakers on the topic of gender equality and sharing stats on gender-based violence that encourage a conversation.
2. Encourage staff to take the HeforShe Commitment. HeForShe is a solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all. This is a great way to include the males in your workplace in the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign. It takes less than a minute to click a button that demonstrates your commitment to taking action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls. Learn more: heforshe.org
3. Encourage staff to tweet for change. The UNDP promotes several thematic hashtags to inspire people to use their online presence for social change. #EqualityMonday dedicates one day of the week for sharing stories, facts, pictures and/or statistics connected to gender equality. A notable initiative coming outside of the United Nations is #EverydaySexism. This hashtag draws attention to the persistence and prevalence of discrimination and sexism in the daily lives of women. Follow the hashtag for harsh insight on harassment and gender-based violence. Ultimately the goal of these social campaigns is to encourage a discussion and build awareness about gender equality.
4. Rally your colleagues to raise money to support a female entrepreneur in a developing country. Catapult is a crowdfunding source for girls and women. Through a few clicks of a button Catapult connects you to hundreds of projects taking place around the world and allows you to contribute to the one(s) that you believe in. By uniting your team around a common goal you will inspire a positive team experience while creating social change. Learn more: catapult.org
5. Join a global platform for collaboration with women around the world.The Knowledge Gateway for Women’s Economic Empowerment is an open global platform that promotes collaboration, learning and innovation to advance women’s economic empowerment. By registering for free online you will be connected to women and men in more than 190 economies with development partners from the private sector, civil society, academia, governments and international organizations. This is a great tool to expand your business connections to a global network. Learn more: empowerwomen.org
*Photos provided with permission from the United Nations Development Programme