The Fantastic Four: Game Changing Organizations in International Gender Relations

We all hear about organizations that tackle gender discrimination internationally such as Michelle Obama’s 2015 Let Girls Learn Initiative, or the Malala Foundation. Both do brilliant work to tackle the issues of women’s education (62 million women not able to access education at the time of Let Girls Learn Initiative’s founding) and human trafficking. Despite the positive change these two organizations have made, there is more work to be done, and four new and familiar organizations are bringing ideas that will be instrumental to tackling different aspects of gender discrimination worldwide.

Pictured above at the 2019 UNICEF on Campus St Andrews are Dr. Liita Iyaloo Cairney (First Period), Lisa De Pagter (U.N. Population Fund), Elena Ahmed (Department for International Development), and Roxani Krystalli (Moderating). Not pictured is Vanessa Farr (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom). Image courtesy of the author (2019).

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

The WILPF is the first NGO to achieve consultative status within the United Nations, and has been important for emphasizing women’s agency in peacekeeping through their PeaceWoman Program. More specifically, in the early 2000’s, PeaceWoman helped produce the UNSC Resolution 1325, a formal statement of the international community’s goals to making the peacemaking and peacekeeping process more gender inclusive, while giving provisions to help women impacted by violence. Furthermore, Operative Clause 15 of UNSC Resolution 1325 opens up cooperation between the UN and smaller groups fighting gender differences like WILPF.

In 2019, WILPF has been active in promoting women during the Korean peninsula peace negotiations through the Korea Peace Now march by the DMZ. The WomenCrossDMZ march is lead by 30 women peacekeepers and panel discussions lead by women for peace between the two Koreas. WILPF’s work in Korea is finding ways to have women become more involved with the peacemaking process, even if they are not directly doing negotiations.

U.N. Population Fund (UNFP)

The UNFP, established in 1969, works with shifting important norms impacting women worldwide such as making pregnancy a smooth rather than unplanned or unwanted process. Their mission statement goes further into how to accomplish these goals, such as through providing more reproductive health care for women, and finding ways to stop the practice of female genital mutilation. The organization helps summarize the different issues that they are working in their ‘State of the World Population Report’. While the report is more explanatory than enforcing, it does help highlight important statistics, for instance that 70 million girls that are likely to be forced into marriage over the next five years.

Its most important report, the UNFP strategic plan for 2030 outlines six different goals for all states worldwide to strive for. These aims are, achieving human rights for all, helping children reach their potential, emphasizing women in peacemaking, reducing gender- based violence, educating women in rising career paths (Ie. Computer Science) and increase transparency in government. Each of these goals is important because they will likely be pivotal to helping guide the UNSC to taking future action on gender discrimination when called on.

Department for International Development (DFID)

Unlike the two previous organizations discussed, the DFID has most of its influence on a national level. The DFID, under the U.K. government, main aim is to eradicate poverty worldwide. One of the unique ways the DFID looks to help women have more economic rights is through property rights.

The organization has consistently hit its five- year targets for adding new members into its network for financing their efforts to reclaim land that they believe has been unjustly taken( 6,000,000 people covered from 2011- 2015). For women in developing nations, where men lay claim to the family’s property, the DFID network is helping women have a forum for their property rights that they haven’t had before.

First Period

The menstrual cycle is taboo in nations all over the world, and First Period is finding ways to stop this stigma that can lead to gender- based discrimination. For instance, in India, women are forced to take time off from work during their periods, largely due to high prices for menstrual products (A 12% tax on menstrual products was imposed in 2017). By the same logic, young women are deprived access to an education because of their periods.

Period First provides young women with an online medium to help them understand that the female period is a natural cycle. If you scroll through the website you will see that the ‘Harness your cycle’ tab; its main idea being that women can be in control of their bodies if they are in the right mindset. For women who do not have access to technology, Period First performs educational sessions all over the world: from Berlin to Nairobi.

The examples above reflect an important point. Gender carries with it different issues all over the world, and to make a difference the approaches taken have to range enormously, from government departments to startups. It means the issue can be addressed at all levels of society, from government bilaterals to operational-level aid distribution. The only obstacle remaining is collaboration between the many levels of such a multi-layered approach. Whilst varied approaches often make this difficult, it is perhaps encouraging to see the groups above represented, as illustrated in the picture, quite literally at the same table. It therefore seems possible that in the future, the issue of gender-based violence and discrimination could be tackled with a solution that reflects the sadly endemic nature of the problem, collaborating to tackle it in what would otherwise be wildly different fields. Only time will tell if the positive direction the field seems to be taking will develop into a solution to what is one of the world’s oldest problems.

Banner image courtesy of Department of International Development via Wikimedia, © 2011, some rights reserved.