Let’s Commit To Gender Equality

Psychologist Mehezabin Dordi practices at the Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) is, “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow,” which has essentially birthed a whole new hashtag – ‘Break the bias’. But from a mental health perspective, what makes the tomorrow more sustainable?

Women’s day is perhaps one of the most clichéd days to speak about Gender Equality, but it’s a crucial topic for many reasons. Gender inequality has many detrimental effects on the mental health of women. Did you know, as compared to men, women are TWICE as likely to experience generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, PTSD and depression during their lifetime? Women are also four to ten times more likely than men to have eating disorders. While it is true that many factors play a role in mental illness, including biological differences between sexes, studies have shown a link between experiencing discrimination and mental health symptoms.

Gender equality is also of equal interest to men and their mental health. As early as 1915, a New York times article titled ‘Feminism For Men’ opened with the statement, “feminism will make it possible for the first time for men to be free”. Gender Equality is important for men too – it enables them to live the life they want to live. Ample psychological and sociological data proves that the more egalitarian our relationships, the happier both partners will be.

Gender equality is not a zero-sum game, it’s a win-win for both – men and women. It goes beyond simply ‘pitching I’” or ‘helping out’ – it is about sharing. We need to understand that “Women don’t become ‘mothers’ – people become ‘parents’.” Data shows when men share housework and childcare, children do better in school – with lower absenteeism and higher achievements! Children are happier and healthier and less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and are significantly less likely to see a psychiatrist or put on medication, when men share housework and childcare! When men share workload, their wives are not just happier, but also healthier and less likely to need a therapist. Lessened rates of depression and anxiety result in higher levels of marital satisfaction i.e. less conflicts, thus promoting healthier lifestyles, greater intimacy and a lessened need to resort to alcohol or other addictive substances.

The whole nation benefits from Gender Equality! Studies show that countries known for gender-equality score highest on the happiness scale. In fact, research has conclusively proven that firms practising gender-equality are more efficient as employees get to work in a healthy atmosphere, resulting in lower job turnover and rates of attrition. Recruiting is easier, with higher rates of retention, job satisfaction and productivity. The bottom line is that gender equality is good for business!

There’s overwhelming data proving that gender equality is in the interest of men, of children, of countries, of organisations. Gender Equality is a win-win for all. But we cannot break the biases and fully empower women and girls, unless we engage boys and men. Men play a crucial role in facilitating gender equality and promoting women empowerment. It is high time we broke through the stereotypical social and cultural norms, based on anatomy.

So, on this Women’s Day, let’s commit to gender equality and break the gender bias, so we can protect our collective mental health and enhance the wellbeing of men and women alike, which will greatly benefit children, businesses, the nation and the whole world!

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