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Boys and girls should care about gender equality - report

As Plan Ireland calls for an “International Day of the Girl”, a report has found that gender equality is good for boys, as well as girls.

Image: Jason Clarke Photography

CHILDRENS’ CHARITY PLAN Ireland has called for September 22 to be declared the International Day of the Girl in order to focus the world’s attention on the importance of girls’ rights.

Making the call at the launch of the organisation’s latest report, CEO David Dalton said, “In too many societies across the world, girls face the double discrimination of being young and being female. They are pulled out of school, married early and are more likely to be subjected to violence.

“This is not only unjust; it is also short-sighted. The 500 million adolescent girls and young women in developing countries are potentially a major force in driving economic progress.

“Equality of opportunity in health, education and in the workforce will enable girls to become active citizens; contributing powerfully, as mothers and teachers, as civic and business leaders, to their families and communities. I would like to call on men and boys in Ireland today, to lead by example and stand up for women’s and girls’ rights.”

Good for boys too

Today’s report found that fathers, brothers and husbands play an essential role in creating true gender equality.

However, gender equality is good for boys too, highlights Plan Ireland’s 2011 ‘Because I am a Girl: The State of the World’s Girls‘ report.

In the survey, Plan International, which works in 50 different countries, spoke to 4,000 children aged 12 to 18 in a number of countries, including the UK, Rwanda and India.

In both Rwanda and India, the majority of children agreed that women should tolerate violence in order to keep their family together. About 43 per cent said there are some times when a woman “deserves to be beaten”.

The report’s authors concluded that, at the moment, gender stereotypes and inequality are being passed down through families and schools.

In the UK, less than half of the boys surveyed believe that “it would be good to have the same number of men and women leading top companies”. About 17 per cent of the male 12 to 18 year-olds also felt that “women are taking jobs away from men”.

In terms of what are the main responsibilities of women, the survey found that “rigid norms” have shaped children’s attitudes. In the UK, 11 per cent of all children, “totally agree” that “a woman’s most important role is to take care of her home and cook for her family”. In Rwanda, this figure jumped to 66 per cent, while in India it was even higher at 74 per cent.

These stereotypes also harm boys and men, says the report.

Education at all ages is key and the report calls for pre-school education promoting equality between girls and boys and changes to school curricula to challenge stereotypes.

Column: Men need to help with gender equality – but it’s good for them too>

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