MsDora, former teacher and Christian Counselor likes to empower men and women and to explore religious and social issues which concern them.
Thanks to the 3-day workshop on The Gender Sensitization Awareness Programme, there is something else to explore. The workshop was presented in Basseterre, St. Kitts on October 5–7, 2016 by the St. Kitts-Nevis Government Department of Gender Affairs and funded by the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF). The agenda is being promoted by the United Nations (UN), which clearly expects the idea to have international appeal.
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Daily attendance averaged 30 Kittitian participants, some representing public and private agencies, plus a few community activists who received personal invitations. However, during the heated discussions when individuals expressed their beliefs and opinions, certain cliques became apparent. In addition to men versus women, there were 3 major subgroups: educators, fundamentalist Christians and Rastafarians. There were bound to be differences of opinions.
At the conclusion of this article, there is a table showing the general consensus on what these groups think about gender sensitization. There is also solicitation for readers' input. Opinions matter, especially since everyone is affected.
CEDAW is an international treaty adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly. It is the most comprehensive international agreement on the basic human rights of women. The Treaty provides an international standard for protecting and promoting women’s human rights and is often referred to as a “Bill of Rights” for women. It is the only international instrument that comprehensively addresses women’s rights within political, civil, cultural, economic, and social life.
An important feature of the Gender Sensitization workshop was the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) document.
The Convention focuses on:
- civil rights and the legal status of women;
- reproductive rights;
- cultural factors influencing gender relations.
Following are 3 questions and answers which briefly present the basics of the workshop.
1. Definition: What Is Gender Sensitization?
Simply put, gender sensitization is the process of becoming sensitive to the gender bias which is usually applied to men and women in their productive roles, and changing attitudes and behavior to replace bias with balance.
For example, gender bias may have us assume that the woman does the grocery shopping and the man wears the hard hat. If we become sensitive to the fact that both men and women can do grocery shopping and wear hard hats, we will withdraw our preconceived notions about the man and the woman. Consequently, our thoughts, words and actions will reveal that we view them as equally capable in these roles.
The program teaches that gender is a socially constructed concept learned through socialization and culture. Expecting the woman to shop for groceries and the man to wear the hard hat are gender concepts offered by our culture; and we can change these concepts.
On the other hand, sexual roles, defined by our biological makeup, are fixed at birth and cannot be changed. Men will never become pregnant and women will always have larger breasts. Only the reproductive roles are fixed, not the productive or gender roles.
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Because women usually suffer more from gender bias, they seem to receive the greater benefit from gender sensitization education. Consequently, it must be established early that female empowerment is not intended to disempower men. Equality is the objective of the program.
Equality does not mean that women and men will become the same, but that their rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether they are born male or female.
— UN Division for the Advancement of Women
2. Intentions: What Kind of Change Does Sensitization Training Intend to Produce in Our Everyday Lives?
- We will more likely adhere to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, treating mean and women as “equal in dignity and rights.”
- The CEDAW treaty will become a regular reference in our attempts to treat women right.
- Gender-specific job titles will be altered to include both males and females. Examples: housewife will become homemaker; cleaning lady, custodian; policeman, police officer; foreman, supervisor, and so on.
- Job interviews will exclude questions which target a woman’s vulnerability based on her reproductive role, and will focus more on her capabilities and potential as a human being.
- Gender-based violence will no longer be tolerated by individuals who previously accepted that one gender is less deserving than the other of respect and humaneness.
- Men and women will have equal advantages in economic opportunities, property rights, parenting opportunities, decision-making and all other matters.
Examples of Results in 3 Countries
- Bangladesh used CEDAW to help attain gender parity in primary school enrollment.
- Kenya used CEDAW to address differences in inheritance rights, eliminating discrimination against widows and daughters of the deceased.
- Kuwait’s Parliament voted to extend voting rights to women in 2005 following a recommendation by the CEDAW Committee to eliminate discriminatory provisions in its electoral law.
3) Different Responses
How are different people responding to CEDAW and the gender sensitization concept?
3. Different Responses: How Are Different People Responding to CEDAW and the Gender Sensitization Concept?
- Of the 194 UN member countries, 189 have ratified CEDAW. United States (US), Iran, Somalia, Palau and Tonga have not yet done so.
- Various US organizations like League of Women Voters, and Amnesty International support the treaty, but others like United Families International and Concerned Women for America believe that women’s rights are already covered under the US Constitution and that CEDAW will “undermine traditional family values by redefining family.”
- The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis is a UN Member State since 1983. Following are some of the different responses from the workshop participants, which may very well mirror responses in similar groups in other countries.
General Consensus of the St. Kitts Workshop Groups
If gender sensitization empowers women in a man's world, bring it on.
Attempts to empower women usually result in disrespect for men.
The concept is a useful tool in promoting excellence, even when it means crossing gender lines.
Gender equality is against the Bible teaching that some leadership roles are reserved for men.
Justice and fairness are important making it wise to give to individuals (men and women) the recognition they deserve for their contributions.
More may be achieved by empowering people to live and work in harmony than by sensitizing them to gender issues.
What Are Your Thoughts?
Please take a minute to register your opinion in the comment section below. Thank you.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Why doesn't the government take important steps for gender sensitization ?
Answer: Not sure if you have a specific government in mind, but browsing for an answer, it seems that different governments are reacting differently to gender sensitization. For example:
The goal of Global Affairs Canada's gender equality policy is to support the achievement of equality between women and men to ensure sustainable development. (2017)
USAID works in partnership with the Government of Egypt to reduce gender gaps across a wide range of sectors and activities. (2017)
The State of the Union report addresses key questions about gender inequality in the United States. Although “Congress remains gridlocked on gender and family issues,” they note that there have been “many promising developments at the state and local levels." (2018)
Google "Gender equality plans in Latin America and the Caribbean" for insight into various activities agreed upon by various States for the promotion of gender equality.
Most governments are taking steps, although probably not big enough and not fast enough.
Question: What is a generalization?
Answer: A generalization states a fact, an idea, an opinion that is considered acceptable by most people, or most of the time.
Question: What are some real-life experiences of gender sensitization?
Answer: Most people act as if gender roles are fixed, so they expect females to do what they consider female work: cook the food, wash the clothes, clean the house, pick up the kids from school, and so on. They expect males to cut the grass, wash the car, go to work and bring home more money than the female. The truth is that any gender can do any of these tasks. Real-life experiences include women being barred from driving a sixteen wheeler and men being barred from being a secretary because they like to do jobs that are not considered fit for their gender. Real-life experiences include discrimination against women who work beside men and are paid less because the women are considered less able to work at a "man's job." Men and women in the workplace should be judged on their skills and potentials, not on gender.
Sexual roles are the only roles in which gender is limited: a man will never get pregnant, and a woman will never donate sperm. Other than reproductive roles, all others are open for grabs and gender should never be the deciding factor in who gets the job.
© 2016 Dora Weithers