Women’s Empowerment → Humanity’s Well-Being
Gender equality is our best shot at survival
What if there was a single societal intervention that could fundamentally improve the well-being of humanity? And what if a group of experts from around the world had recently codified this intervention into specific actionable policies for governments to adopt? You’d think you would have heard about it, wouldn’t you? Chances are you haven’t, however, because most major news outlets didn’t cover it.
On August 20th, the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council, comprised of 32 members including UN Goodwill Ambassador for Women Emma Watson, released the culmination of almost a year’s worth of work: recommendations for advancing gender equality and the empowerment of girls and women. The Council identified 79 best practices from gender equality laws all over the world and called on global leaders to commit to adopting and implementing these legislative frameworks for gender equality and accountability. Watson announced this in an editorial with her UN colleagues in the Guardian on August 22nd.
The reason this story wasn’t more widely reported is because the world still doesn’t understand the relationship between women’s empowerment and the well-being of humanity as a whole.
Consider four major factors in the health of our species: global warming, global resources, the global economy, and global violence. First, what animal produces the greatest carbon emissions over its lifetime? A human being. The most effective way to manage population growth is by empowering women to make decisions about when they want to have children. Second, the fewer people there are, the more natural resources there are to go around. As a result, women’s reproductive rights are central to combating both climate change and a healthier distribution of finite resources. Third, regarding the global economy, if women participated in labor markets the same as men, it would add as much as 26% — $28 trillion — to the global GDP.
But it’s the fourth factor, global violence, that is often the most surprising to learn is also a function of gender equality. In the 2012 book Sex and World Peace, political science Professor Valerie Hudson and her colleagues proved that there is a direct correlation between violence against women and conflict in a society. In cultures where there are high rates of domestic violence, men learn to control others through violence. Men then bring this behavior into their communities. Meanwhile, in countries where there is less violence against women, there is less community violence.
As a psychotherapist who works with trauma survivors, I see the results of gender inequality every day. Women experience higher rates of post-traumatic stress and depression. In addition, women are more likely to take their trauma out on themselves in the form of self-harming behaviors. Meanwhile, men tend to take their trauma out on other people, ending up in the criminal justice system — not an ideal place to recover from trauma. Hurt people … hurt people.
Men act-out. Women act-in. The result is a self-perpetuating cycle of violence on a global scale.
We, as a species, need to understand: women’s empowerment is the single most powerful leverage point for positive change in society there is. Gender equality isn’t just about empowering women; it’s our best shot for our very survival. This is why the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council’s report should be recognized as the watershed event that it is.
Keep an eye on Emma Watson. She and her colleagues are showing us the way forward, and I can’t think of anything more hopeful than that.
Peter W. Pruyn (“prine”) is a psychotherapist in Northampton, Massachusetts and a member of the New England Society for the Treatment of Trauma and Dissociation. He is currently writing a memoir about his journey to feminism.
For more stories about women and equality, follow Fourth Wave.