As Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan asserts, "[T]here is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women." However, the involvement of men and boys is vital to achieving the rights of women and girls.
Men and boys must be an active, engaged part of the solution. As violence against women has become epidemic, and with the increasing feminization of poverty, migration and HIV/AIDS, it is vital to reinvigorate the fight for gender equality. No longer is gender equality simply a women's right issue. It is a crucial social justice issue necessary for the longer-term well-being of humankind and the planet.
Women are disenfranchised, economically excluded and disempowered in many parts of the world:
- Women and girls make up 70% of the 1.3 billion people worldwide living in extreme poverty (those living on less than $1 per day).
- 33% of women globally are homeless or live in inadequate dwellings, such as slums.
- Women work 66% of the world's working hours and in most developing countries produce 60 - 80% of the food1 but only own 1% of land and hold only 14% of parliamentary seats.2
As a result of their disenfranchisement, women have less access to education at all levels and fewer economic opportunities. Women's work is generally less prestigious, less desirable and less well paid. Women have less voice in household and community decisions. They are given fewer opportunities to participate in leadership positions. As a result, women are more vulnerable to exploitation and have fewer options available to them. Often economically dependent on spouses and partners, they are unable to leave abusive relationships.
Men, on the other hand, are advantaged, purely on the basis of being born male because masculinity is equated with power, access, resources, differential treatment and preferential opportunities.
- increases families' income;
- is required for the eradication of poverty and the reduction of HIV/AIDS;
- leads to sustainable development;
- enhances the education and health of all family members.