Are the Youth the future of gender equality?

Image: Domenic Aquilina

Ms. Virginija Langbakk, director of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), has been in Malta for the last couple of days to discuss Malta’s results in the Gender Equality Index (2015). I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ms. Langbakk to discuss these results, and how young people can make a difference.

Image: Domenic Aquilina

The first thing to note is that while Malta has improved when it comes to gender equality, in 2012 Malta’s score was of 46.8 out of 100, leaving it quite behind the EU average of 52.9 points. It appears that men and women on the islands have unequal division of time spent in care, domestic activities and leisure – with men having more time for leisure, since women tend to take on the bulk of care and domestic activities.

Ms. Langbakk noted that while a high rate of women continue their education up to Tertiary level, the female rate of full-time employment is quite low (32%) – leading to the question of ‘what’s stopping women from entering the world of work?’. There is obviously no simple answer to this question, however the consequence of the low employment rate is that this leads to less women in positions of power (such as managers and directors). Further, the type of courses the majority of women read for tend to be ones with a lower income, which also leads to inequality.

Image: Domenic Aquilina

When questioned about what could be done in such a situation, Ms. Langbakk commented that what tends to be seen is the segregation of subjects – with girls being pushed towards the humanities and boys pushed towards the science subjects. Therefore, teachers and parents need to be aware of this, and avoid assuming – especially subconsciously - that a child cannot be successful in a particular subject due to their gender.

Discourse is an important tool which can be used to achieve gender equality. Gender roles and the stereotypes associated with them can be damaging to a person. Ms. Langbakk advises that people should stop assuming that men have to be strong or the best at something – and men should stop expecting that of themselves. This type of discourse puts pressure on men to not show their feelings, and to not admit when they need help, leading to burnout or psychological issues in the future. With regards to women, Ms. Langbakk advises that women, and especially young girls, should always try everything, even if someone tells them that they cannot do a particular task. All too often, girls are told, either verbally or non-verbally, that they are not capable of doing a task, so much so that they actually believe it. Therefore, self-confidence (in everyone) is key to combating the obstacles laid out by traditional gender roles.

Image: Domenic Aquilina

I asked Ms. Langbakk what students and young people can do to push for gender equality in the areas that they see a need. Here, I was informed that not only can young people use the results of the Gender Equality Index to lobby for change, but anyone can inform the EIGE with the variables which they feel need to be tackled – and they can also fill in their own statistics, to be used by the EIGE. Therefore, anyone can have a direct impact on the monitoring of their own country’s gender equality gap.

Even more good news – in the coming years, the EIGE will also be collecting information on LGBTQI+ issues, therefore, while currently the indexes focus mainly on male and female situations, in the near future results pertaining to other genders will also be included under the category of “intersecting inequalities”.

If you would like to know more about Malta’s results in the Gender Equality Index (2015), go on the EIGE website. And if you have gender equality at heart, Gender Equality Malta (GEM) is a recently launched youth-led organization which is pushing for more awareness and discussion of the various gender issues which affect Malta.

Written by

Mel McElhatton

Mel McElhatton

Melissa McElhatton who has recently graduated with a BA (hons) in Social Work started out with Insite as a writer, then as CEO, and following as Social Policy Associate. She is also currently President of Gender Equality Malta (GEM).

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