In March, we celebrate Women’s Month. This time of the year, we hear buzzwords like “women empowerment” and “gender equality.” These words, unfortunately, are not always understood by everyone. Hence the need to create more noise, to raise more awareness, and to push for more social action regarding this very important yet often ignored subject.
In 2015, countries worldwide once again agreed to solve some of the most pressing universal problems. This new set of targets is called the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs, the successor to the Millennium Development Goals. There are 17 SDGs in total. At the heart of all goals, however, is a common element: inequality.
SDG 5 pertains to achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. SDG 5 is particularly close to my heart, not only because I am a woman but more importantly because I am an advocate of equality. As a journalist, it is my greatest desire to share this advocacy with other young people.
The Philippines is the highest ranking Asian nation in terms of gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Global Gender Gap Report. But while the Philippines deserves much praise for its efforts in promoting gender equality, there is always room for improvement. And this is, I believe, is where the youth comes in.
Here are 5 things the youth can do to support SDG 5:
1. Ask, learn, explore
How can we defend human rights if we are clueless?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions; otherwise, how can we learn? What are the laws protecting women? What are the loopholes in our legislation? Why gender equality?
There are several avenues for learning not confined to classrooms. Explore books, take advantage of the Internet, listen to people’s stories. Diversity always helps – be sure to get all sides, research on what the international standards are, and take time to digest everything.
2. Speak up, share
Now that you’re equipped with proper information, don’t hold it in. Be generous in sharing what you know, but don’t forget to listen. Argue intelligently, not belligerently. The objective is to enlighten others, not to boast.
Stand up for those who cannot, and stand up against those who oppress.
Try advocating through the arts, the media, or through your own special ways. Everything starts with that one small step.
3. Dare to care
“Inaction is a crime,” a teacher once told me. If you are aware, for example, of any form of gender-based discrimination or abuse, report it. Your silence could mean someone else’s life. Dare to care for people other than yourself.
4. Burst bubbles
We don’t live inside a bubble. You may have beliefs rooted from, for example, your religion or culture – but this doesn’t mean you’re always right. Above these are human rights, which we all have. If your history pushes you to support female genital mutilation, sexism, homophobia, forced marriages and other forms of abuse, rethink these beliefs. Am I spreading hate, misinformation, and stigma? Be honest with yourself and take that leap – step outside your bubble.
I’m sure we all know someone who’s being treated differently just because of their class, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. Don’t just watch, do something. Influence others by leading a good example not only among your peers, but even with people younger or older than you, say your siblings and parents. Join or start a local movement, amplify women’s voices, and encourage boys and girls to become advocates – it is never too early to become an advocate.
These are just 5 simple things any young person can do. There are probably a million other ways we can help achieve SDG 5, so do let the answers flow until we wake up to that day when gender equality and women's empowerment are not just concepts but a reality. It will take time, but we will get there if we move today.