“Women’s status in society has become the standard by which humanity’s progress toward civility and peace can be measured”.
Positive Social Change for Women in the 21st Century
The social and political enlightenment of the last century has resulted in many great strides towards equal rights and positive social change for women. It’s sometimes difficult to believe that just 100 years ago, in most countries women weren’t permitted to vote, or own land. However, despite the progress that has been made towards gender equality in developed nations, there are still many countries which that progress has not yet reached. Even in developed countries, inequality still exists in many forms, such as women not receiving equal pay for equal work. One of the most important factors for driving positive social change in any country is an informed citizenry.
The Importance of Information
An organization formed by Hillary Clinton in 2012 in cooperation with the United Nations called Data2X is devoted to gathering accurate data that reflects the status of women’s rights around the world. Based on the proposition that necessary change cannot be accomplished unless society is informed about the current reality, the organization works tirelessly to provide the information that will enable social and political activists to better prioritize and focus their efforts where they are most urgently needed.
With the advent of the internet and “big data”, access to massive amounts of information is now possible. The goal of Data2X is to harness the power of information by collaborating with experts and advisors around the globe to collect relevant data that can assist them in developing policies that address issues of gender inequality and move societies towards positive social change for women.
The Current Lack of Data Necessary for Continued Social Change for Women
One of the first steps in gathering crucial data is determining what necessary data is currently not being collected and taking steps towards developing and implementing data collection methods.
Another necessary step is implementing those collection methods worldwide. Social and political unrest and war are some of the biggest obstacles facing social change for women, as stable governmental entities as well as populations are required to collect relevant data and make it available.
Civil registration, which records vital data such as births, deaths, marriages and employment statistics is essential for gathering accurate data. Some important areas in which relevant data is still not available in many countries include financial earnings, voter registration, and gender-based violence. It is also estimated that the births of 35 percent of children under five, or some 230 million children, have not been registered. Further, only one third of countries record deaths and causes of death.
Another premise of the organization is that there should be global standardized measurement to help determine current levels of gender inequality. Some important categories, such as educational outcomes for girls, access to child care, and conditions for migrant workers still lack such minimum international standards.
Examples of Current Gender Inequality
One article lists ten areas in which women still suffer from gender inequality. One of the most insidious forms is that of forced child marriage, which still occurs in many countries. This is one of the areas in which accurate data collection of birth and marriage records would be extremely helpful in determining the extent of the practice. Public awareness is crucial for harnessing the power of social activism. With the advent of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, social activists have begun to exert a greater influence over public policy than ever before.
Another area in which gender inequality adversely affects women is that of marriage divorce and child custody rights. In some countries men can divorce women merely by oral declaration, while women often have no legal recourse. There are other inequalities regarding marriage as well, including sexual inequality. As late as 2014, a judge in India ruled that forced sex between a legally married husband and wife is not a crime. Marital rape wasn’t recognized by every state in the U.S. until 1993, although feminists had been working towards that goal since the 1970’s.
One of the gender inequalities that most adversely affects children is that of income inequality. According to a recent report that measures the global gender gap in the areas of health and survival, education, political empowerment, and economic opportunity, the least progress has been made in the area of income equality. In ranking countries in terms of closing the gender gap, most of the top ten, which included Ireland, Rwanda, and the Phillipines, were Northern European countries. While the graph shows an increase in the number of women in technical and professional employment positions, there was very little change in the rate of income inequality.
Happily, the report showed an increase in political empowerment, which is an important step in achieving more positive social change for women. Improved information collecting capabilities and increased social activism have the potential to accelerate positive social change for women, and make gender inequality just a memory of an unenlightened past.