Johara Boukabous: Women’s rights, everyone's issue

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      She is one among many but her courage and her story moved the whole world. Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani student attacked in October 2012 by a Taliban gunman, is an amazing example of fighting for women’s and girls’ equality and rights.

      From physical and psychological violence and lack of access to basic health care to education and poverty, women are the target of many inequalities. Of the 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty worldwide, 70 percent are women and girls, and gender discrimination is at the root of this injustice. Not only women are poorer, but they also face social, economic, political, and cultural discrimination. That’s why we all must address the inequalities that stand in the way of achieving women’s rights.

      In all societies and sectors, women and girls enjoy fewer life options and more limited entitlements than men and boys. In many places around the world, women are the primary agricultural workers, construction workers, teachers, caregivers, and providers. But women don’t control resources (including financial), decisions, legislatures, or the military. Often, women bear most of the responsibility but have very little authority. 

      Men have a crucial role to play
      Oxfam Canada—a non-profit international development organization that works to create lasting solutions to hunger, poverty and injustice worldwide—focuses on women’s rights in relation with other issues such as rural livelihoods, labour rights, and gender-based violence. Oxfam Canada supports interventions that increase women’s power to access and control resources, build capacity, support women’s leadership, and change legislation to promote women’s equality.

      In order to reach this goal, Oxfam Canada works in collaboration with organizations in the south, in Canada, and at the global level that have strong credentials in promoting women’s rights. Oxfam is targeting groups such as young women working in maquilas in Central America and young women working to check the spread of HIV/AIDS in southern Africa.

      Basic rights for women must be enforced: earning a decent living, enjoying education and health care, getting help in life-threatening disasters, speaking out for their rights, and to be treated as equal must be the top priorities of governments—by adopting laws in favour of women’s right and above all, implementing them.

      Tackling women’s poverty means tackling global poverty because more than 70 percent of people living on less than $1 a day are women and 60 percent of the world’s working poor are women. Men have also an extremely critical role to play in ensuring women’s rights. It is not always easy for them to speak out in favour of women’s equality, yet men should confront as openly as women the attitudes and behaviours that stand in the way of women’s equality. 

      The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, which takes place from November 25 to December 10, is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate that women’s rights are everyone’s matter.