Fletch Williams reports on a workshop led by VSO and Progressio, exploring how the global goal addressing gender equality can become a reality. Fletch is 26 and from Cambridge, and volunteered in Lesotho with Skillshare International ICS.

“Being a woman shouldn’t hold you back”
“What inspires me is the motivation women have to better themselves”

Gender and injustice are key barriers to development
Characteristics should associated with individuals, not genders. In a gender equal world we are not shoved into boxes. You do not need to be in a developing country to experience gender inequality – and this helps us feel empathy, which drives development causes.

Stereotypes impair development and limit how people can contribute to their communities. We need to think about who controls the money, where caring responsibilities lie, and who makes decisions. Only 13 of 193 heads of government are women – how can we guarantee that women will be considered equally if they are not equally represented? These issues are all interlinked and impact gender equality – you can’t change one without changing them all!

We should be proud of the gender goal (Goal 5) – it looks at tackling the route causes of gender inequality. Local people need to be able to tell global decision makers what gender equality means to them. In every country, in every community, we need to build capacity and expertise and enable those with passion to challenge unfair power relations and create change.

ICS Volunteers have powerful stories about why gender equality matters. What was clear from the stories ICS volunteers shared was that by empowering local communities you can change social attitudes. Whilst on placement we pick up stories and ideas. Coming back home can put you at a distance, and holding on to those inspiring moments can be hard.

So what actions can you make to promote gender equality?
Think about who inspires you – where do they live? What challenges do they face? What actions have they taken? How is the community is involved?

1. Run a community event on International Women’s Day – 8th March
Bringing people together is a great way to spread the word about issues and start changing attitudes.

2. Create a Campaign and gather Media Attention – get in touch with local media, and spread the word using facebook, twitter and instagram. With a little bit of effort you can make your ideas go global!

3. UN Major Group on Children and Youth – you don’t need to be at the UN headquarters in New York to influence decision makers. This working group is open to all young people and all you need is a laptop and internet to connect and join in on UN discussions which impact young people

4. Create a Youth Manifesto – declare your passion and put pen to paper! Outline the actions you think need to be taken to make gender equality a reality.

5. Write to your MP – it might sound like a cliché, but you have valuable information which your MP might not have. The more you share it, the more likely it is it will have an impact.

It only takes a little inspiration…

Time and time again people stood up and said how they were inspired by women who face and overcome hardships with strength. This is inspiring but this is not something they should have to do. Everyone who has done ICS has a story they can tell.

These stories are powerful tools – they can be used to express the value and impact of policies that can change the lives of billions of people across the world. This is what the Global Goals and offer, and within them the gender equality goal. The more of us who talk about it, the more people who know, the more likely it is to become a reality. Let’s get the word out and take action!