As we commemorate 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, IMA World Health's Senior Technical Advisor for Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, Noshaba Zafar, reflects on the importance of all genders working together for gender equality.
Gender identities prevalent in society impose distinct expectations and roles on individuals. External conditions stemming from poverty, conflict, disaster and political turmoil complicate societal norms and become obstacles for advancing gender equity. Persistent gender inequalities, and unfulfilled gendered expectations, are often the root cause of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), which is overwhelmingly, but by no means exclusively, perpetuated against women.
Current gender norms give men great power as they control many aspects of the lives of women, not only as husbands, fathers, brothers and heads of households, but also as community leaders, leaders of religious institutions and government officials. With a greater social value on men over women, men often have control over finances, assets and even the reproductive health of women. Changing this unbalanced and unequal relationship is the key to advancing gender equality.