The World Health Organization estimates that 35.6% of women worldwide will experience some sort of physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. There still exists a significant gender pay gap. Around the world women and girls are subject to education discrimination. Gender power imbalances and unequal gender norms threaten the health of women worldwide. Perhaps most critical, as of June 2016, of all national parliamentarians only 22.8% were women.
Not only disadvantaged women but disadvantaged peoples of all genders benefit from an increase in female leaders. Female leaders increase GDP, benefit sectors of public service from national security to natural resources to healthcare, are more effective leaders than men, advance technology and inspire future female leaders. More female leaders means a better world. Towards the goal of gender equality in order to benefit men and women around the world, the United Nations has adopted Sustainable Development Goal 5. Although the world has made real steps towards gender equality in many different arenas the U.N. believes not enough has been accomplished. The U.N. argues that
“While the world has achieved progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment under the Millennium Development Goals (including equal access to primary education between girls and boys), women and girls continue to suffer discrimination and violence in every part of the world.
“Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
“Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.”
In order to accomplish and implement gender equality throughout the world Goal 5 sets a number of targets:
- End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
- Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation
- Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation
- Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate
- Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decisionmaking in political, economic and public life
- Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences
- Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws
- Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women
- Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels
Paramount to achieving these targets and meeting this sustainable development goal is to “empower all women and girls”. To promote Goal 5 and to assist in empowering women all over the world the U.N. has appointed a new honorary ambassador for women and girls.
Maher Nasser, outreach director of the United Nations’ Department of Public Information, told NPR that “Wonder Woman’s character is the most iconic and well known female comic book superhero in the world, known for her strength, fairness and compassion, and her commitment to justice, peace and equality”. A special ceremony this Friday will mark the official commencement of Sustainable Development Goal 5 and the introduction of Ambassador Wonder Woman. In attendance for the occasion will be televsion Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter, and recent movie Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot. This Friday also marks Wonder Woman’s 75th anniversary. According to the BBC, the campaign is being sponsored by Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment, who are supporting the UN and Unicef’s year-long campaign for gender equality and women’s empowerment.
However, not all are enthused with this announcement. UK Women’s Equality Party leader Sophie Walker said:
“I meet extraordinary women every day: women who have survived violence, or defied gender norms to ascend to the top of a hostile industry, or blazed a trail in the arts or media or sport or health.
“These women are truly superheroes. They don’t wear hotpants, they don’t have the power to wield Thor’s hammer – they change lives, and they are the role models our young people need to see.”
Furthermore, this appointment is a bit hypocritical. As noted by the New York Times,
“Dozens of countries pushed this year for a woman to be chosen as the next Secretary General, pointing out that the United Nations pledges to promote gender equality around the world and arguing that it needed to “lead by example.”
“After months of internal jockeying, the Security Council last week picked António Guterres, who ran the United Nations refugee agency for 10 years, to be the world’s top diplomat…
“Wonder Woman’s avatar, Mr. Nasser said, would be used on social media platforms to promote important messages about women’s empowerment, including on gender-based violence and the fuller participation of women in public life.
“That, too, is a bit awkward. The United Nations is woefully behind on its pledge of gender parity in senior appointments. One analysis found that nine of 10 senior leadership jobs last year went to men.
“Not to mention, a woman has never led the United Nations system, and none will for at least the next five years.”
In other words, the United Nations has appointed a fictional character to promote a one year-long program designed to fight for worldwide gender equality while the U.N. actively ignores pervasive gender inequality in its own organization. In order to “lead by example” maybe the U.N. plans to create a comic book about gender equality, followed 30 years later by a television series about gender equality, followed 35 years later by a movie about gender equality.
DC Comics said Wonder Woman’s story was meant to “test her appeal at a time when female superheroes were rare”. Perhaps the United Nations is taking the same tact towards gender equality.
Have a nice day.