Category Archives: Gender Equality

Step Zero in Freeing Up Half of the Human Race

“There can be no safe future without safe motherhood”
Women Deliver global conference (London, 18-20 October)

The very, very first step we need to do to provide at least the possibility of freedom for the whole of humanity, and not just men, is actually made up of two actions:

Step 0.1: diminish the chances of death during pregnancy
Step 0.2: increase the survival rate for children 0-5

In fact, as long as would-be mothers die at the enormous rates of 1 in 6 in places like Sierra Leone and Afghanistan, no wonder the relative value of each of those human beings is not considered that much.

Cynically one would ask why would anybody emotionally attach himself to a person that is quite as likely to die within a year (obviously, in reality things do not work out so simplistic, but still…).

Furthermore, if children die in large numbers (especially in their most vulnerable years, from birth to 5), the only way to nurture some possibility of leaving descendants in this world, is to conceive as many babies as possible.

Having women wait out their entire reproductive lives doing only house chores, with no time for business or political activities whilst going from one pregnancy to the next, becomes then a perfectly logical, if horrendous choice.

Given the fact that death-during-pregnancy and the need of a large number of children just to hope for one’s family not to die have both accompanied humanity for much of its existence, no wonder women have been set aside as virtual slaves for millennia.

And so there is simply no opportunity for “emancipation” if we don’t get mortality rates lower for mother and for young children.

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Luckily but tragically, the solution is not that difficult.

It’s all very feasible stuff and so it is a real tragedy that we have not achieved yet that for all: just as abject poverty and “under-development” are still very widespread.

In truth, there is a precise correlation between those concepts, and the health of women and children is one of the best indicators of how truly “rich” a country is.

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And so: let’s provide education to all the girls, and provide them with all the drugs and all the resources needed to mantain their health and the health of their children.

Otherwise, all efforts may as well go to nothing.

Free the Women

Former U.N. envoy Stephen Lewis, at the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada, 2006, recently quoted by Jane Roberts in “Five years later, girls around the world need help more than ever:

I challenge you to enter the fray against gender inequality. There is no more honorable or productive calling. There is nothing of greater import in this world. All roads lead from women to social change.

I agree wholeheartedly. But arguably the contemporary relative freedom of Western women has been an accident of history, borne out of the men-hungry tragedies of both World Wars. Is there any hope and any means to make that happen elsewhere, the empowerment of women that is but without forcing their societies to live quite a long time without much of the male workforce?

Not to mention the futility of trying to inculcate freedom for half of humanity, from the outside.