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Gendered Languages May Play a Role in Limiting Women’s Opportunities

MD Staff



In many developing countries, women face significant barriers to their equal participation in society. While some of these barriers are easy to see, a new line of research is uncovering a surprising and less obvious possibility: the very structure of certain languages may shape gender norms in a way that limits women’s opportunities.

“Gender equity is important not only because it can help speed up progress toward ending poverty, but because it provides everyone the chance to achieve their potential,” said Asli Demirguc-Kunt, Director of Research at the World Bank. “Understanding the deeper causes that shape the barriers women face can help countries be more effective in their efforts to create a level playing field.”

At a recent Policy Research Talk, World Bank economist Owen Ozier delivered a crash course in linguistics and its relationship to gender norms and economic outcomes for women. According to Ozier, existing research has already hinted at a link between grammar and gender. Some languages—including Spanish and Russian, for example—classify nouns as either masculine or feminine (or sometimes even neuter). Recent experiments in political science have shown that gendered languages that classify nouns this way are associated with more regressive gender attitudes. Economics research has also found that recent immigrants to the United States tend to divide household tasks along more gendered lines if they speak a gendered language.

But Ozier and his colleague Pamela Jakiela of the Center for Global Development wanted more conclusive evidence, and in a new paper they document the results of a journey to identify the grammatical gender structure of 4,334 languages, together accounting for 99 percent of the world’s population. To achieve this linguistic feat, they drew not only on existing sources of information like the World Atlas of Language Structures, but also deep dives into textbooks and academic research as well as the knowledge of World Bank staff in offices as far flung as Fiji.

Their work paid off with fundamental but previously unknown facts about language. For example, 38 percent of the world’s population speaks a gendered language as their native tongue. But more importantly, Ozier and Jakiela were able to take this newly assembled body of data and relate it to outcomes for women around the world—specifically female labor force participation, educational achievement, and gender norms.

What they found is striking. Grammatical gender is associated with a nearly 15 percentage point gap in female labor force participation relative to men, even after controlling for various geographic and economic factors that could be driving the difference. In practical terms, gendered languages could account for 125 million women worldwide being out of the labor force.

Attitudes toward women are also influenced by gendered languages—helping to explain how gendered languages could translate into outcomes like lower female labor force participation. Drawing on data from the World Values Survey, Ozier and Jakiela found that those who speak a gendered language are more likely to agree with statements like “On the whole, men make better business executives than women do” or “When jobs are scarce, men should have more right to a job than women.” Perhaps even more surprisingly, women are just as likely as men to hold these attitudes, suggesting just how pervasive the effect of language is on beliefs.

Not satisfied with the wide-lens analysis of countries around the world, Ozier and Jakiela also closely scrutinized a handful of countries—Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda, and India—where both a gendered and non-gendered indigenous language is widely spoken. What they found confirmed their broader findings: gendered languages are consistently associated with lower female labor force participation. In these countries gendered languages are also associated with lower rates of primary and secondary school completion.

Since languages change slowly, and often outside the control of any institution, the findings may seem to be cause for resignation. Yet Ozier was optimistic.

“Grammatical gender is only one among many of the linguistic structures that we use, and only one of the many psychological nudges that we experience on a constant basis,” said Ozier. “Even without changing language, shifts in policies and social norms can change levels of labor force participation, change levels of schooling, and the opportunities available to women.”

A new wave of experiments has demonstrated that highlighting positive examples of women can make a difference. In an experiment by Oxford’s Emma Riley, Ugandan students performed better on a mathematics exam after being shown the film Queen of Katwe, which tells the story of a young Ugandan woman’s achievements in competitive chess. In another experiment by professors Catherine Porter and Danila Serra, female students who had a female role model visit their introductory economics class were more likely to take a more advanced economics class.

The behaviors and beliefs of men can also change. After Quebec reformed its parental leave program to include a “daddy-only” label, Cornell University’s Ankita Patnaik found that fathers’ use of parental leave doubled and fathers were more likely to contribute to household and child-rearing responsibilities. In households in Saudi Arabia, experimenters from the University of Chicago and University of Zurich addressed misperceptions about the typical level of support men have for women working outside the home, and women in these households were subsequently more likely to participate in a job interview.

“It’s encouraging to see that there are interventions that can trump the salience of language, but whether their effect is long-lasting is something we still don’t know,” said Caren Grown, Senior Director of Gender at the World Bank. “We need more behavioral science research that will identify the policies and nudges that can alter potentially deeply ingrained gender attitudes.”

World Bank

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New Social Compact

Reasons Behind Women Inequality in Pakistan



There is much availability of literature that portrays the issues of women inequality along with explaining the suffering of women at the hands of the male partner of society, particularly in Pakistan. Pakistan is a country where women are deprived of their fundamental rights in a male-dominated society which creates a sense of inequality within the country. There is also much reality that male has always remained dominant over female counterpart since the evolution of the world and with the passage of time changes came into the societies but the changes were accepted by some societies and neglected by other ones. The societies which adopted the change and led towards the path of development and progress or modernization are considered the most developed and sophisticated nations of the world which some extent have also given much equality to women as compared to the nations of Asia and the Africa continent.

Multiple feminist moments are working throughout the world for the rights and equality of women. It was 1909 when the first time international women day was observed in America. The basic theme of women’s day always remains the equality of women for a good, healthy, happy, and balanced society. Furthermore, it is insisted that gender equality is the only way to boost economic and social development and better society; therefore it is the responsibility of both males and females to play their part in the role of the progress and development of the society. Thousand years before Aristotle explained that women have an equal right to be happy as men have. According to him, such a society cannot remain happy where women are not happy and independent. If one looks at the employment ratio of males and females in every walk of life within Pakistan, it can be observed that the ratio of males is more than women which shows the gender inequality within the society.

There are multiple stereotypes and old traditions practiced in Pakistani society for a long period because of which women are not considered equal to men. For instance, the first and foremost reason is the physical structure of men, it is considered that men are physically strong than women so being a strong and brave they are superior to women but with the invention of technology, innovation, science, and globalization this idea of superiority and physically strong has become null and void because it has made women do each work which men can do. But this stereotype has been practiced within society since long therefore it has taken roots in the minds of people even such a level that women their selves have accepted this socially constructed idea which has created many difficulties for bringing gender equality. In a present globalized and developed world, women can also contribute to every field in which men can contribute and it is practiced throughout the world particularly in most of the nations of European and American continents.

Second, mostly the source of income has remained in the hands of male counterparts especially in societies like Pakistan it is expected that who has the source income one keeps the dominant position in the family because of economic matters. Today, half of the population of the world consisted of females for that it is very necessary to involve women in every field for the progress and development of society. For running the society smoothly and peacefully, the role and engagement of women in every walk of life are too important because the nations which are considered the most developed, peaceful and sophisticated throughout the world have mostly removed the gender discrimination and inequality along with giving women various rights as men enjoy.

The Thing which is considered most important for gender equality is that women have to work hard for eliminating the stereotypes and old traditions within the society along with changing their mentality and thinking of being weak and less active than men. Moreover, there is the presence of such things which portray women as a weak counterpart of society like the fear of women from small things for instance insects and animals, it looks a trivial thing but hugely effects the minds of people which shows that women need men for their security and safety. Therefore, it is important for women that they should avoid any activity which portrays the weak image of them. It also influences the minds of men, who also mentally accept that women need male protection rather women should do such actions and activities which make their personality more strong and brave. If anyone wants to bring the change that change starts from the minds of people because if people mentally accept the anything, it is considered the first step towards the change. Therefore, it is high time for the suppressed women of Pakistan to contribute to eliminating the stereotypes followed and practiced against them.

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New Social Compact

Covid-19 Might not be the End

Syed Nasir Hassan



The world seems to be oblivious when it comes to the non-traditional security paradigms hence certain natural cycles repeat overtime. So is the case with pathogens or viruses and epidemics or pandemics. Countermeasures are taken for known threats whereas the unknown threats are studied and then often brought to the global consciousness. Although, viruses are known and being studied but not often brought to global consciousness due to the overshadowing global political and corporate structure. The world is having a Curve of History where an infectious disease will alter the course of future global political dynamics.

As the world is seeking an end to this Covid-19 pandemic, another reality is obscured from us that is that even it ends it might not be. In this interconnected and extra globalized world where human mobility is irrepressible, it gives a very apt environment to any viral infection to transform itself from just a disease to an epidemic and then to a pandemic. In this regard, humans have themselves become a potential weapon and that too in biological in nature. Despite being caused due to human activity, they undergo a hibernation period after some time or mutate into mild form but after causing a catastrophe.

In 1980, the year when WHO celebrated that it has successfully uprooted the world’s biggest killer of human history, i.e., smallpox which devoured over 500million people only in the 20thcentury. It was the only disease the world had overcome. People started to contemplate that science would overcome epidemics and pandemics. But then the situation got worse as SARS, MERS, EBOLA, SWINE, ZIKA were on the waiting list. It might have been a different scenario if rather focusing that science will do all the work there would have been an understanding regarding why and how pandemics resurface time and time again.

Today, as we are stampeding in the 21st century, the world has become more globalized. Due to overpopulation and mobility, human bodies easily became incubators for diseases. Since most of the viruses live in living organisms, it is difficult to overcome these diseases.

With unprecedented growth in population, it became a need to boost up production lines of food to keep the global cogs rolling. Moreover, another factor which added fuel to fire was human crossing the natural limits. In order to accommodate, the encroachment of jungles began disturbing the wildlife cycles. When jungles started getting bulldozed these animals started to invade human territory as we did theirs, bringing in the viruses as well. This urbanization played to be lucrative ground for the spread, from wild to poultry than to humans. One such thing was swine flu in 2009 which was caused by H1-N1, a Sub-type of influenza-A virus. It caused around 575,000 deaths in its first year of circulation.

Another aspect to be mentioned is our insatiable lust for more which has caused a serious threat to us in form of climate change. As the temperature of the Earth is rising constantly due to human activity the ice caps are melting rapidly too. In August of 2016, a boy died in Serbia and the cause was anthrax. The disease which humans have thought to have gone into a hibernation cycle. Not only this more than 2300 reindeer died due to this outbreak. The prime cause of that outbreak was the melting of permafrost and a dead infected carcass got exposed. A noteworthy point is that on poles the dead do not decompose rather preserve under layers of ice.

WHO has estimated that a global temperature increase of 2-3 oC will increase the number of people who are at risk of malaria by around 3-5% or several hundred million. In 2018, malaria alone killed around 405,000 people. Another epidemic that was caused by misquotes was the Zika outbreak in Latin America, primarily Brazil. What did it cost? A generation effected by microcephalia and other disorders.

It has been estimated that in the last three decades, 30 new diseases have emerged which have the potential to become pandemics. Now it the questions isn’t IF a disease shape-shifts into a pandemic? But WHEN a disease would become pandemic? While the globe is in a fray with Covid-19 some diseases have undergone to be endemic like AIDs which has infected around 37 million people over the globe while humans seems to be in despair.

It is high time for us to have a wakeup call. Being at the pinnacle of civilization, it is indeed a rudiment for a glimmering future to work on solutions. The consequence of such outbreaks is not just death but social and global collapse. It is time that the world focus on preparedness rather post-outbreak measure. It is time that we shift our focus from traditional to nontraditional threats, from nukes to biosciences. It is high time to spend much of our defense budget on nontraditional security threats or we would not even survive to see the traditional ones.

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New Social Compact

Coronavirus the Catalyst of Shaping the Global Integrated Space



When we look at Earth planet, we see many geographical spaces that have been divided into different puzzles in different forms and formats, and boundaries within national boundaries, ethnic boundaries, ideological boundaries, developed and undeveloped boundaries and thousands of other types of boundaries have divided it. In other words, our integrated world has become a fragmented world through numerous natural and synthetic boundaries, and actors in every geographic space have made extensive efforts to prevent competitive strategies and sometimes with preventing collaborative and interactive strategies with other spaces will provide the ground for moving to geographic space. In this range, national spaces are of greater importance and priority. In these spaces, every government is making every effort to regulate the space for its citizens, which is a space-based organization that has the following characteristics: security (at different levels; biological and human sustainability). Over the past centuries, this strategy has been at the core of countries and has been prioritized by organizing their own geographical areas, and each government has made every effort to improve its geographic space and productivity.

After the Second World War, with the formation of the United Nations and with the advent of globalization, the ground for increased intergovernmental cohesion was developed and countries became economically and partially politically interdependent and interconnected. As this connection increased, the scope for increasing the linkage between geographic spaces expanded globally, and in addition to the strategy of organizing the interior, countries also partially developed the strategy of organizing the global space. In addition, human rights, environmental issues, and climate change (global warming) added the linkage between countries and geographical spaces, and strategies for organizing a more prominent global space were followed by actors. Despite the increasing interconnectedness of geographic spaces around the world, governments have sometimes been concerned to some extent with the reduction of their geographic space in favor of the organization of global space, skeptical and shifting priorities, and in some cases, such as the exit of Trump from the Paris treaty we see that national strategies (reorganizing the country space) have again become a top priority for countries and little attention has been paid to global reorganization strategies. Because the actors of national spaces express for themselves the mentality that our geographical spaces with tight boundaries can guide us towards a secure, developed, meaningful space, and the actions and issues of other and global communication spaces, not to us.

In the meantime, the advent of coronavirus has made a difference in the global space, and as a catalyst it has simply re-emphasized global unity in all aspects. Coronavirus, in contrast to previous ones, such as globalization, which was more economic in nature, climate change that was gradual and subtle, and others had prominent features such as security in terms of security of life, economic, social, and so on, has rapid and wide diffusion speed, ability to cross international borders and more. Coronavirus has simply shown that national geographic spaces are interconnected and interact with one another, simply influencing one another. Accordingly, the only strategy in preventing it is no longer responding to the arrangement of national geographic space for governments, and cannot be helpful. In order to regulate the space of their countries, governments must be able to explain national strategies along with strategies to organize the global space.

All in all, the universe has become a cohesive whole, shaking the whole space and shaking it with the slightest impact on a local space. The more these strategies in national spaces can accommodate and maintain in global space as a whole, certainly challenges and issues such as coronavirus can less shake the world. It should be kept in mind, however, that this is not inconsistent with what I have termed Coronavirus and the resurgence of frontiers, since it is a globalization issue.

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