Martín Santiago Herrero is UNDP Resident Representative and United Nations Resident Coordinator in Argentina.
05 Nov 2012
We continue to live in a world that is profoundly unequal, where the opportunities are not the same for men and women.
Women represent 70 per cent of the world’s poor. On average their salaries are 10 to 30 per cent less than men’s for the same work, with the same tasks. Women are responsible for two thirds of the work carried out around the world, but receive only 10 percent of the benefits. They own 1 per cent of cropland, even though they perform 80 per cent of rural work. And as if this were not enough, two thirds (60 per cent) of women are victims of some type of violence or abuse (physical, sexual, psychological or economic) within or outside their homes.
By continuing to deny this reality or leave the responsibility to women to "do something about it" themselves, the injustices against women are only exacerbated.
We need to act, just as women's movements have done for years, but this time with greater support from men of all ages, and on a grand scale.
A road less travelled until now is trying to debunk the underlying myths that sustain inequality between men and women: Why do so many men still think they are superior to women? Where does that mentality come from? And why does it persist?
In many countries, our social relations are organized under a patriarchal system, which builds and maintains a hierarchy around men.
Often in such scenarios, men gravitate towards the public sphere with access to power and resources, while women are at home, responsible almost exclusively for household maintenance and taking care of others.
The intent and discrimination behind this system becomes more obvious every day whereby men create the conditions to conserve their power and exercise control, even if it means resorting to violence or abuse.
Consequently, this system is replicated on a massive scale; our cultures and institutions tend to maintain and nourish male dominance in a way which undermines human development – hampering the ability for individuals to realize their potential according to their own interests and preferences.
But this is a "social construct", and, as such, it can most certainly be broken down and altered.
Let's challenge established gender roles and mandates. Let us decide to live better together and take steps to build communities that will respect men and women equally and have no need for abuse and violence to maintain a power imbalance.
Tell us – How can men contribute to the empowerment of women?