“A gender equal world is a more accessible, freer and more peaceful world,” said Pashtana Dorani. “It’s a fascinating world, where men and women have equal pay; a world where girls and boys aren’t told what color is for whom, or that they can’t play sports or do anything.
Dorani is a 24-year-old political and civil rights activist from Afghanistan. She is the founder and CEO of LEARN, an NGO that promotes learning for girls in Afghanistan, and continues to do so, despite the ongoing ban on secondary education for girls that came into force in the country after the Taliban takeover in 2021.
The efforts of women human rights defenders like Dorani continue to be indispensable for the rights of women and girls.
“We are witnesses of the courageous women and girls in Afghanistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran who are demanding an end to systematic discrimination against them and socioeconomic and legal reforms to ensure their rights and justice,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. , Volker Türk.
However, women’s rights and gender equality are under threat, he added.
Societies are seeing the revival of conservative narratives that relegate women to a secondary role, with the rise of “authoritarian, patriarchal and misogynistic narratives that reward toxic masculinity and legitimize sexism,” Türk said.
The backlash against women’s human rights and gender equality has reached new heights, with escalating attacks against gender equality and women’s rights around the world, said Hannah Wu , Head of the Human Rights and Gender Equality Section at the UN.
“The international community must take powerful actions to address the urgent situations where women and girls risk their lives to demand human rights and equality,” he said.
Progress can never be achieved if the root causes of gender discrimination and inequality are not addressed, he added.
“The abuse of culture and religion is where the scourge of gender discrimination begins,” explains Wu. She called for a more holistic approach to advancing the human rights of women and girls with a focus on prevention rather than reaction.
Reflecting on progress
To continue the fight for gender equality with unwavering determination, societies and individuals must be inspired by the progress that has been made in women’s rights over the years. Recognizing the tremendous progress that has been made, but knowing that there is still a long way to go.
Almost 75 years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted, establishing, for the first time, fundamental rights to be universally protected. The UDHR has inspired laws, legislation, even movements that have sought to ensure dignity, freedom and justice for all.
Women played an integral role in the drafting of the UDHR. The drafting committee was headed by Eleanor Roosevelt. And it was the suggestion of the editor Hasna Mehta from India, that the original language of the document was changed from “all men” to “all human beings” throughout the document, showing that the equality of gender was non-negotiable.
“The UDHR is a great way to access all human rights,” said Dorani, the Afghan activist.
However, this promise of dignity and equality for all is not the reality for many women in the world, who find the space for protest and expression severely reduced or disappeared, he said. It is particularly true for women and girls in their country of origin, he explained.
“Those in power must be held accountable for not implementing the UDHR,” Dorani said.
The fight never ends
We must stand together against anti-rights and anti-gender narratives, said Türk. “We must address gender equality holistically, recognizing the interdependence and indivisibility of women’s human rights.”
Working towards the advancement of women’s rights and gender equality is an important commitment to UN Human Rights and central to all areas of our work, said Wu. Working with States, civil society organizations, UN partners and other actors, the Office helps to reform discriminatory laws and policies, eliminate gender-based violence, and combat gender stereotypes gender among other actions.
Senegal is an example of the complexity of the effective fight against discrimination against women in politics. In 2010, the country adopted a revolutionary law on gender equality, which led to more than 44 percent of seats being held by women in the National Assembly. However, despite this, huge challenges still remain in the implementation of the law.
“The place of women in politics in Senegal remains contested, and violence has also affected them in parliament,” said Robert Kotchani, UN Regional Representative for Human Rights in the West Africa Office. “Only revolutionary laws are not enough. Governments must walk the talk, and this is where we must continue our defense and support civil society in pushing for implementation and making equality a reality.”
Battling her feelings of anger and despair at times, Dorani said she is determined to channel her energy into continuing her activism.
“Activists like us do what we do because we know that if we don’t stop every existing voice will be shut down. We don’t have a choice it has to be us,” he says.
As her call to action, Dorani encouraged people to speak up and stand up against the violations of women’s and girls’ rights.
“Just because something isn’t happening in your country doesn’t mean you don’t care,” he says. “An unequal world for an Afghan girl is an unequal world for yourself, your family and for all women.”