Rebecca Theodore is an op-ed columnist based in Washington, DC. She writes on national security and political issues. Follow her on twitter @rebethd or email at email@example.com
By Rebecca Theodore
The United Nations global Sustainable Development Goals agenda is a pulpit that aims to meet the greatest trials of the 21st century, with an admirable mention of gender equality by 2030. However, since social progress is also evaluated by the way society treats women, then, it is evident that the many blockades to women's participation in economic, social, and political life yearn to be understood in a global environment, where the language of gender equality easily dissolves into ideology and objectivity.
Whereas confirmed reports indicate that “$28 trillion could be added to the global GDP by 2025 if women, who make up half of the world’s work-age population were to achieve their economic potential;” gender work parity remains the crowned monster that prevents women’s active participation in the workforce. Statistics further show that in the United States, women working full time in 2015 were paid just 77 percent of what men were paid. This vividly shows that women are robbed of 23% of their pay. Compounded with the threat of violence against women, sexual harassment, the disparaging effects of climate change, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) confirmation that women and girls comprise 71 per cent of human trafficking victims; the interpretation of a coarse language continues to encapsulate the culture of women into a wave of negativity, thus limiting their opportunities, and swapping away the realities of history.
Yet, despite this economic and historical dilemma, the empowerment of women and girls is one of the most profound sentiment that stirs the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to glory.
Regardless of Secretary General Guterres’ critical role and his purpose of tenacity and assurance for a new chronicle in realizing gender parity at the United Nations; research indicates that “the General Assembly, the highest policy making body at the United Nations, and the Security Council, the most powerful veto-wielding body in the Organization, continue to prodigiously opt for men over women during its 71-year presence in terms of employment and other socio-economic advantages.
More to the point, investigations further confirms that the UN 15-member Security Council’s record of accomplishment continue to elect men as UN Secretary-Generals, and that the two highest ranking political positions at the UN are identified as the ‘intellectual birth right’ of men. Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini, co-founder and Executive Director of International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) concludes, that “in a world with an increasing number of women in tertiary education and in the workplace, it seems inconceivable that the UN has not, or cannot reach parity between women and men in all levels across the system.”
From this it can be affirmed, that it is the United Nation’s grand proselytization of gender empowerment to women globally that further leads to problems by excluding women from the status quo, thus confining them to the private and subjective role of society. The United Nation’s deteriorating conditions of practicing inequality from within is masked in an institutional androcentric program that is also leading to a negation of cultural relativism. It is one where generalizations are interpreted as truth and reinstated into the political, thereby making it difficult for women to understand who they are, and what they represent in a political climate swallowed in misogynous gains and androcentric ambitions.
Even though the UN deserves much credit for listing Goal 5 of its Sustainable Development agenda as a bulwark of achieving gender equality and empowerment for women and girls; on the other hand, the UN clearly accentuates ideals of social and economic injustice in the lives of women globally.
To what ends are we seeking liberation and gender parity if the UN Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality comprises of words that contain judgement?
It must also be remembered that if language is the cultural part of society, then, it is evident that language will reflect attitudes and thoughts in the construction of who and what a woman is or represent because meaning cannot be understood without language. Women cannot attain legitimization outside of the discourse of power that subjects them, because “the loss of meaning is created out of a meaning which seeks to prevent women from recognizing the destructive contradictions which comprises reality.”
Elaborating further, if the illusions of psychological autonomy, religion and philosophy continue to be the defining datum that crafts the social, economic, and political life of women, then, it creates a method for male dominance and a reason for repression and alienation for women universally. The philosophical works of Aristotle, Freud et al, coupled with the Christianity dogma of St. Paul should not be the prevailing evidence to further the plight of sexism and discrimination among UN policy makers. Indeed, the male is ruler and the female is subject, but if it is in the spirit of the times (Zeitgeist) that the cultural matrix is to be understood, then, it is plain to see how the UN’s reasoning eliminates the concept of ‘personhood’ and restrict all aspects of human experience, hence, branding women as victims of a tragic misogyny and a catastrophic sexism that knows no bounds.
Notwithstanding the fact that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a soft law agreement, and governments are not legally required to deliver on the commitments, it must be seen that we now live in a world where technology substitutes humanity. Within this bearing, if United Nation policy makers refuse to indorse pioneering technologies and practices to generate innocuous working environments for women, then it becomes impossible for the onus to coerce a more structural focus on gender equality for women and girls globally. Moreover, in the great marriage of globalisation, and technological advancement, the adoption of women must also be considered in the great narrative of women in the changing world of work. If these decisions are ignored, then, women will continue to face colossal eccentricities in building sustainable and productive livelihoods. Gender parity 50-50 by 2030 will be nothing but a ‘fleeting illusion to be pursued but never attained.’
Still, one thing is certain. Women cannot continue to be socialized by the internalization of administrative concepts and paradigms while their struggles for self determination are eroded in the grinding wheel of capitalist consumption and thirst of androcentric power. It is good that Goal 5 of the UN Sustainable Development Goal enables women to make choices, but it is also easy to see how this choice is conducive to a given end in control and domination by this very bureaucratic institution.
And for women, this double day is now a standard impasse.
It follows that in a world divided along class and racial lines, it is impossible for women to struggle for transcendence in the concept of Goal 5 of the United Nation Sustainable Development because this notion is the product of denial and erasure. Gender equality is an essential human right. It is not only dividing things into binary categories to understand gender parity and women in the changing world of work, but the inclusion of other voices which are not of the dominant construct also need to be heard.
The pluralistic prospect of Goal 5 the United Nations sustainable development agenda must also seek to dissuade the social forms of categorization, negative stereotyping, and over representation that stifles the concerted efforts of women, and thwarts transformational changes towards women in the changing world of work.
Consequently, navigating the progression of gender equality to a sustainable future demands a change to institutional language and the prevailing ‘androcentricism’ that continues to bring untold connotations to the scope of human thinking. Women and girls need “access to education, health care, decent work and representation in political and economic decision-making processes to fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.”