Gender Equality is not only a goal, it is the implementation of equality into daily life – SDGs 5 (Gender Equality) Part B

Gender Equality is not  only a  goal, it is the implementation of equality into daily life

– SDGs 5 (Gender Equality) Part B

Original Article: Ms. Bai Yi-jiun

Sources: NPOst (

Translated by: Eden Social Welfare Foundation

Special thanks to: Diane Hsieh & Amy Hsieh (translation volunteer)


Domestic violence disguised as "family dispute"

For 35 years since its founding in 1982, the Awakening Foundation in Taiwan (‘Awakening’ henceforth), has been active in advocating for women's reproductive right, gender equality in the workplace, domestic violence prevention and intervention laws, sexual autonomy, women's political rights, media literacy, and many other issues regarding gender equality.

Yu-rung Tan, Secretary General of Awakening, discussed Taiwan's women rights movement under the SDGs framework and pointed out that the various and seemingly far-encompassing aspects of gender equality are actually all tightly connected to one central theme: gender issue pertains to all interpersonal relationships. Given that gender issues are often so close to our personal lives, it could be difficult to start a conversation let along change people’s perspective on it. As Tan put it simply, "when you want to address gender issue, you are actually dealing with intimate relationships."

photo credit: Suhyeon Choi @ Unsplash

Many Taiwanese parents still hold the problematic belief that “my son needs a good education for a good career, but for my daughter it’s more important to find a good husband.” Relatedly, statistics from higher education financial aid shows that more females than males are taking out student loan, which not only shows that families and the society at large are not as supportive for women’s education as men’s (hence women are taking out loans by themselves), but also sets gender inequality in wealth accumulation at an early stage.

As women start their families and plan for childbirth, it became a constant and very real struggle thinking about whether they should take time off from their careers, which affects not only their immediate income, but also their competitiveness if they were to come back to the workforce later. Among females, those with one child reported the lowest income level on average, whereas single females reported the highest income level. Even those single females, though, still received lower income than males on average. This phenomenon of income inequality, coined ‘Motherhood Penalty’, is observed internationally, with Taiwan being no exception. We can see Motherhood Penalty is a manifestation of the societal belief that parenting is a women’s job, such that companies expect women to leave (at least temporary) and hence less worth of an investment. 

photo credit: @ pexels, CC0

Gender equality hidden in the details of daily lives

Cultural expectation of gender (i.e., what a woman and man should look/behave look) can be seen from details of daily lives such as the dynamic of interpersonal relationships, right to education, income structure, etc. These seemingly trivial inequalities could accumulated to be suffocating and significant. Tan, the Secretary-General of Awakening, emphasized the concept of ‘identity politics’, which calls for attention to the gender ratio at every social position. ‘If the majority of congressmen or presidents are male, how could we expect girls to grow up believing that they could also be a congressperson or a president? Identity politics can be applied to any occupation or social identities; it conveys the message about who males could/should be and who females could/should be.

In 2017, the proportion of women in parliaments globally is still merely 23%. Tan pointed out that it is important to achieve equal gender representation, although one’s gender identity does not necessarily represent one’s gender consciousness. Imagine that 90% of the policy makers are biologically male, how likely is it that they will make gender equitable policies?

Earlier this year, U.S. President Trump signed the "Anti-Abortion Executive Order" ("No Abortion Ban"). To protest against Trump’s decision, Doctors Without Borders posted a picture of Trump surrounded by all males, suggesting the gender imbalance in this decision. A few days later, Sweden's Minister for International Development Cooperation Isabella Lövin announced a "climate bill" on Sweden’s goal to reach Carbon Neutral in 2045. Lövin sarcastically posted a picture of her surrounded by all females when signing the bill. This incident visually shows the power of identity politics. Thinking about Taiwan, and the fact that Taiwan had a female Minister of Education, Diplomacy, or Defense, what can we learn  to suggest for the future formation of cabinet members?

In this article we have discussed how gender equality is embedded in various aspects of lives, from interpersonal relationships, to access to education, to the UN’s Millennium and Sustainable Development Goals. To achieve the grand goal of eliminating all discriminations, we really need to start by changing our cultural values in gender. Quoting Tan, ‘many women resonate very strongly with discriminatory experiences due to gender. The more we share those experiences and challenge the assumptions of gender roles behind them, the more we could create a supportive community."

photo credit: SAM Nasim @ flickr, CC BY 2.0