Round-Up Talk: Equal Rights and Opportunities
Five experts, five questions: question 2
Where do you personally see the greatest need for more equal opportunities and equality?
I believe that the greatest need for more equal opportunities is in the education sector, especially in terms of the quality of affordable education. I am speaking in the context of higher education in India. The government is increasingly withdrawing subsidies and grants for colleges. This has resulted in more privatization of education, which has in turn created a growing class divide among students. Those who can afford to pay the fees are able to access the best education in terms of teaching quality and infrastructure. Families may struggle to organise financial support but it is inevitably the son who will get first priority. If they cannot afford to educate a second child at this level, it will be the daughter who has to drop out or opt for a cheaper and more affordable conventional course, often not of her choice. Recently, I had a parent who appealed to our institution that his daughter’s fees be deferred as he had invested all his money in his son’s engineering course. If we are to progress with regards to social equality, it is imperative that we facilitate women’s access to qualitative education and address the barriers to educating women, which may not always be linked to financial issues, rather which have sociocultural roots.
As democracy continues to gain ground across the world, it is becoming more important that each country engages with its local constituencies. This phenomenon entails many challenges for decision-makers, particularly in the context of natural resources’ exploitation in developing countries. For decades, natural resources have been exploited either by states or private companies in the Global South without appropriate participation mechanisms, creating enormous injustice and equality gaps. However, new standards that integrate approaches to public participation, transparency of information and access to justice are emerging, which, if correctly implemented, could play a crucial role in limiting the otherwise unrestrained and abusive power that has traditionally outweighed that of local communities.
In a world that needs more minerals to sustain its renewable future, participation is leverage for more opportunities and equality for those affected by extractive activities.
Securing the livelihood of all human beings and protecting them against discrimination is always the foundation of my work. Central issues of importance to me are access to education and culture and corresponding social and cultural participation.
I support cultural institutions with their inclusion-directed development and help them to appeal to a wide range of guests using their specific means. I currently see a great need for developing and supporting “equal communication” between the institutions and their current and potential guests or customers.
For all public contact work (public relations, exhibits, information and services), it makes sense to develop easily comprehensible linguistic concepts. There are lots of ideas and formats available (e.g. simple language, use of sign language, and many more). They all help to create new possibilities for sharing information, promoting dialogue and appealing to people.
I think that without a balanced social system that is receptive and supportive to the needs of women in its design, no progress can be made. And to build such a system we need two things – to close the gender data gap, since data as a mass of global knowledge is now predominantly male-centric, and secondly, to have more women involved in decision-making processes.
With women largely remaining invisible and unaccounted for, it is especially crucial that we see more positive examples of women being the trailblazers and laying the foundations of more gender-sensitive policies. And on a personal note, I see the role of recreational sport as one of the platforms that can empower women to become such leaders and trailblazers, as it has incredible potential to build characters, establish ties, create a sense of sisterhood and inspire women to aspire.
Marco Tulio Pereira Silva:
Despite some improvements with regards to equality in the world over the last few decades, I think that the greatest need for more equal opportunities and equality still lies in developing and less-developed countries, especially those BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, characterised by huge populations and social inequality.
Although inequality is present in every kind of diversity, nowadays I feel that equality in gender, race and sexual orientation are facing more challenges and deserve special attention. The rise of conservative groups in many of those countries, and also in developed countries, risks posing setbacks for achieving equality. Hate and oppression are now being validated or, at least, not being opposed by such leaders and groups.
Of course, as a researcher of inclusion of persons with disabilities, I have also observed that this group is still far behind others in terms of equality of rights and opportunities. The challenge here is more about opportunities though: education and work opportunities, most of all.