International Women’s Day 2018: gender norms and gender justice

Adolescents and young people are particularly vulnerable


The #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns have rallied public debate on gender roles and abuse of power. These debates, though critical, are hardly new – they’re just getting louder.

We have known for a long time that patriarchal regimes and gendered power imbalances constrain the rights and opportunities of women and girls. It is widely acknowledged that women and girls face particular harm from damaging gender norms and unequal power dynamics. This harm includes, but certainly isn’t limited to, early and forced marriage, violence and unequal access to education, employment and health services.

Gender norms – the social norms of masculinity or femininity that express expected behaviour – often reflect and cement inequitable gender relations. International Women’s Day and this year’s vibrant social media campaigns provide an opportunity to consider the role of harmful social and gender norms, as well as what we can do to address them.

Here are some key things to keep in mind.


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