28 March 2013

In so many parts of the world, women are treated as second class citizens. What could the future look like for gender equality in the global community?

Guest Blog by Sara Abdul Rahim, Masters student.

The stark reality is, that in many parts of the world today women are denied access to pivotal rights for the mere fact of being female. Thereby women settle into second class status in their own homelands and, generations of young girls are raised as witnesses to the burden of their gender. It’s a cyclical burden, and in some parts of the world “ a curse” to be born a woman, restrained by your gender according to political, societal and/orreligious norms.

As a Sudanese female raised in the diaspora, my parents raised me no differently than my two older brothers, equal despite our difference in gender. Yet over time what I became aware of is that the unfortunate circumstances that made my parents leave our home country of Sudan, is what allotted me a life of equality and opportunities that I would not have otherwise attained had I been raised in Sudan. The truth is as a university student my “daily struggles” are learning how to budget, submitting my work on time and planning my future not different from my male counterparts; while many females’ “daily realities” in Sudan include, and are not limited to, avoiding being stopped by the morality police, uncertainty as to whether they can finish their education, and being subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

In Sudan, it is estimated by Unicef that 90% of Northern Sudanese women ages 15-49 have been subject to FGM and, 74% of women have undergone the most extreme form of FGM infibulation Type III.[i] FGM continues to be a threatening reality for many young girls in Sudan who are whisked away without much choice to be cut. And as long as such scenarios continue to exist, a future where protection of girls from a physically and psychologically harmful practice seems doubtful.

Earlier this month, 28 Too Many spoke at  the 57th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) as it met in New York and reached an agreed conclusion during what Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated to be an “historic session.” The commission reached an agreement on the “prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls.” [ii] While there are many forces local and global working to bring light to the vulnerability of women in communities across the world and to promote gender equality, the road ahead towards global gender equality seems long, bumpy and in parts completely unpaved. The consensus reached by the international community at CSW 57 on the protection, and elimination of violence against women and girls is a pivotal win for all those forces at work seeking to break the perceived cyclical burden of “being a woman,” and many young girls who stand to face FGM in many parts of the world today.

This victory towards a global pledge for protecting women’s equality makes me optimistic for the future ahead. One where I hope we will see more and more women choosing their own destinies and raising their daughters to be strong, confident and, proud young women. A future where young girls will have the inevitable choice to continue their schooling, and their social mobility unrestricted. A future where females are fearless in the face of tools of repression such as morality police and, where young girls in 28 countries across Africa will not fall victims suffering the pain and, everlasting complications of FGM. A future where your gender and, geographical location does not determine your access to protection, equality, and rights.

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[i] Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, A Statistical Explration,
UNICEF, 2005: http://www.unicef.org/publications/files/FGM-C_final_10_October.pdf.

[ii] “Secretary-General Welcomes Conclusion of ‘Historic’ Session
of Women’s Commission, Urges Action to Prevent, End All Gender-based
Violence.” UN News Center. UN,
15 Mar. 2013.

Ford, Liz. “Activists Welcome
Hard-fought UN Agreement on Women’s Rights.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 16 Mar. 2013.