“Gender equality is the unfinished business of the 21st century” – Elizabeth Broderick, special rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women
The women of India made sure that 2019 started with a strong message on gender equality. On New Year’s Day, more than five million women turned up to stand shoulder to shoulder, forming a 620 km human chain that stretched from the northern tip to the southern end of Kerala state, demanding an end to sexism and to uphold equality.
The “women’s wall” in India didn’t occur in a vacuum. Throughout 2018, women raised their voices for gender equality. Here are the top five women’s rights stories around the world:
1. The #MeToo movement continued to dominate the headlines around the world, spawning ramifications in Asia. In China, women’s rights activists and netizens used alternative hashtags, from #MeTooInChina to #RiceBunny, a Chinese homonym of #MeToo. Despite the tightly-controlled internet, the movement emboldened survivors to speak up. Their efforts paid off: more than 20 intellectuals, media personalities and religious leaders were accused of sexual misconduct, and some university professors were fired. China also announced it was planning new legislation that would ban sexual harassment and include it into the civil code.
2. Last year, South Korea saw the biggest women’s protest in its history. Since May, tens of thousands of South Korean women have been staging a monthly rally in Seoul to protest the epidemic of spycam porn, holding placards that said: #MyLifeIsNotYourPorn.
3. The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as US Supreme Court Justice, despite multiple allegations of sexual assault and misconduct and testimony by his accuser Dr Christina Blasey Ford, was a reminder that we are facing an uphill battle in dealing with sexual assault and harassment. The viral hashtag #BelieveSurvivors became a rallying exclamation, highlighting the importance of community responsibility toward survivors.
4. In late June, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave birth to a baby girl – and took a six-week maternity leave, being the first world leader to do so. Last October, Hong Kong Government proposed to extend maternity leave to 14 weeks, from 10 weeks. While TWF welcomed the proposed increase, we urge the Government to implement it as soon as possible.
5. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, released in December, reported slight progress on closing the economic gender gap from 217 years to 202 years. However, the overall gender parity gap widened from 100 years to 108 years, with the gap in East Asia and the Pacific estimated to take a whopping 171 years to close – the longest of any region.
Courageous women and men around the world stood up and spoke out last year – yet we are still a long way from ending inequality. The impressive actions of Indian women give us hope that issues surrounding women’s rights, empowerment and gender equality will remain at the forefront of the world’s attention this year.
TWF is ramping up its efforts to close the gender gap here in Hong Kong. Building on last year’s insights and experiences, in addition to continuing our existing programmes and initiatives, we plan to embark on a study of boys’ attitudes towards gender and to launch a Digital Literacy Programme for Disadvantaged Parents and Girls.
Let's work together to drive momentum and progress gender equality in Hong Kong in 2019.
Get in touch at Fiona.Nott@twfhk.org.