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March 8, 2015

Week 7: Gender Issues

March 8 has been celebrated since 1975 as International Women's Day and thus we invited posts this week on related themes. Former President Jimmy Carter has said that “the most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls, largely caused by a false interpretation of carefully selected religious texts and a growing toleration of violence and warfare.” He has pledged to make it his highest priority for the rest of his life. We asked bloggers to reflect on the main challenges for development actors on gender issues and on what can and should be done to address them.

  • Ambassador Melanne Verveer, executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, recounts the gender equality gaps that exist around the world and makes the case for viewing women not as victims or subjects, but as resources for creating a more peaceful future, in this adaptation of her recent Guardian article.
  • Susan Thistlethwaite previews her new book, which probes deep Western cultural attitudes that lie behind violence against women. Violence against women in war and violence in the home and workplace are both part of deep cultural (and Christian) traditions that exalt violence. Commenting on the new film Shades of Grey, she adds the element of worship of wealth. Creating true safe spaces and redefining masculinity are part of her bold solutions.
  • Kailee Jordan highlights the frustrating failures of peace negotiators to include women at the peace table. Notwithstanding a decade since UN Resolution 1325 was passed, women are still rarely included. And their exclusion matters, she argues, both for each situation and for the broader effort to address violent extremism.
  • Alejandra Aponte brings personal experience of bias in Guatemalan job markets to her post. Accepted and common job application questions make it clear that women are unwelcome and that being married, or unmarried, can be a disqualification. She suggests that relatively doable actions could help young women develop the confidence they need to be successful.
  • Tasmia Rahman argues that social attitudes, especially of men and including "protectors" like police, are real obstacles to women's empowerment and allow violence to continue. She cites the Delhi rape case and the patriarchal attitudes revealed in recent interviews. Women are still blamed for violence. Development actors are urged to focus on these attitudes and especially those of men.