How to Champion Women's Rights in 3 Essential Steps

2012 is now gone. After so many years on this planet, and so many accomplishments — the wheel, penicillin, iPhones — you'd think that gender inequality would have gone the way of the dodo, right? Well, wrong. In much of the world, in some ways, women are still second-class citizens.

I'm just a social science major whose grasp of economics is shaky at best, but I've thought about this issue a lot.

Here are the top three policies that could make a world of difference for women worldwide.

1) Education: In much of the developing world, girls struggle for the right and opportunity to learn. Strict mandates that girls be educated until age 16 would go a long way toward making a difference. While this would likely face backlash from extremists, as well as families who need their children to work or fetch water, girls must be allowed to learn; not only because of the intrinsic value of knowledge, but because it will grant them valuable skills to enter the workforce. This larger workforce will benefit the developing countries' economies, and will keep girls from being forced into marriages at an early age. If we don't teach girls, it enforces the idea that they're inferior, and it forms a chain reaction of consequences that impact all segments of society.

2) Contraception: This, more than anything, shouldn't only be a first-world issue. Access to contraception (and abortion services, when necessary) is a struggle all over the world. Wider access to contraception would mean fewer deaths of mothers and infants, as well as the ability to control family size. Condoms would reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, extending life expectancy, building the workforce, and making the next generation healthier than before. In areas where rape is widespread, oral or injected contraceptives could be vital in preventing unwanted pregnancy. Combined with sex education, widely available contraceptives go hand-in-hand with the goal of education. Pregnancy isn't inevitable, but it can be a choice, and more education and fewer deaths will empower a growing generation of women everywhere.

3) Legislation: Rwanda's lower legislative house is 56.3% female — the most of any country; the U.S. is 78th out of 189. An increase of female representation in government would be significant in achieving gender parity, as female politicians help advance women's rights. Laws regarding marriage and property would likely become less restrictive with women in office, and women would have more power of regulation over their own bodies. A quota system, similar to affirmative action, which requires a certain number of nominees or elected officials to be women, may be the only way to achieve gender parity in some countries. Seeing female politicians would also inspire younger generations of girls to be involved in the public sphere and to continue their education.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Madeline Kirsch

Madeline is a political science major at Union College, with a minor in Women's and Gender Studies. She hails from Rhode Island (home of Allie's Donuts and coffee milk) and has absolutely no idea what she wants to do when she graduates.

MORE FROM

Rick Ross won’t sign women rappers because he’s afraid he’ll sleep with them. That’s a problem.

He's trying to be funny, but this is not an uncommon attitude about women in the rap industry.

Study finds men’s sperm count steady falling, not unlike Gilead’s dystopian future

Sperm count and quality is apparently sinking among men across continents, putting us on a course for human extinction.

Meet the woman behind the trans-inclusive all-women’s music festival in Southern California

The creators of MOTHERSHIP are hoping to create a safe space for women-identified artists and fans.

Despite protest from Senate women, GOP advances devastating bill for women’s health

The Senate will now discuss possible amendments to the American Health Care Act.

The Women’s March launches ‘Resistance Revival’ in effort to keep anti-Trump momentum going

“Sometimes you have to preach to the choir if you want them to keep on singing.”

‘Game of Thrones’ gives fans the feminist sex scene we’ve waited seven seasons for

The women of Westeros are reclaiming agency — over the seven kingdoms and over their own bodies.

Rick Ross won’t sign women rappers because he’s afraid he’ll sleep with them. That’s a problem.

He's trying to be funny, but this is not an uncommon attitude about women in the rap industry.

Study finds men’s sperm count steady falling, not unlike Gilead’s dystopian future

Sperm count and quality is apparently sinking among men across continents, putting us on a course for human extinction.

Meet the woman behind the trans-inclusive all-women’s music festival in Southern California

The creators of MOTHERSHIP are hoping to create a safe space for women-identified artists and fans.

Despite protest from Senate women, GOP advances devastating bill for women’s health

The Senate will now discuss possible amendments to the American Health Care Act.

The Women’s March launches ‘Resistance Revival’ in effort to keep anti-Trump momentum going

“Sometimes you have to preach to the choir if you want them to keep on singing.”

‘Game of Thrones’ gives fans the feminist sex scene we’ve waited seven seasons for

The women of Westeros are reclaiming agency — over the seven kingdoms and over their own bodies.