One thing that is important for governments to consider is the vast gap that comes between policy setting and policy implementation. At the same time, it is important for the individual to realize this gap that comes between theory and action, and recognize the power and ability they have to create change.
In reading so many CEDAW reports being a coder with the WomanStats Project, it is obvious that there are people in each country across the world that want change to happen. They recognize that there are problems within their societies and sincerely wish for a good solution. However, those who are empowered may not share those ideals or have a willingness to enforce them, meaning that their policy agendas are filled with political fluff meant to patronize people for a time and continue with the status quo. Unfortunately, there are also individuals who think like this as well–theorize, deliberate, discuss solutions, but let it all remain a thought.
It is the responsibility of both citizens and governments to realize this gap and mend it. There are two ways to do this: first, develop a will, second, develop a way.
There are many ways that countries and individuals alike have tried to inspire a will to change. If you do a search on the Woman Stats database for the ways governments have worked with NGOs in their countries (NGOFW-PRACTICE-1), you will see the numerous ways governments and NGOs have worked together, almost in every case holding awareness meetings for the public to teach them about women’s issues and health. In all the last three CEDAWS I have done – Guatemala, Ethiopia, and Finland, each country has used the media to spread information, trained various workers to be aware of the needs of women, and generally tried to help others realize the importance in all aspects of society it is to pay attention to women and their issues. On an individual basis, grassroots organizations hoping to increase literacy rates and health knowledge to the public. In Guatemala, there is a program to teach children to teach their mothers to read. Religious organizations in Finland have adopted gender quotas to encourage women to become religious leaders. In Afghanistan, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs is making women’s shelters more acceptable and known about through informing the public about the problems with physical abuse.
In first world countries, we are so unimaginably blessed with rights and freedom and prosperity. It is the responsibility for those of us in that position to refocus our priorities on what really matters: helping elevate others. In 2003, Representative Frank Wolf “berated the media for failing to cover humanitarian issues such as sex trafficking. ‘When I look at the coverage media has given to ‘Joe Millionaire’ and ‘The Bachelor’ and ‘Bachelorette’ and other stupid shows, and how little they’ve given to starving people and the people in Africa today who are dying of HIV and AIDS, I say the media on this issue gets a big, fat F.'” (http://www.unwire.org/unwire/20030224/32207_story.asp). If more people stepped back and realized the uselessness of gluttonous entertainment and opened their eyes to the trials of others, much more would get done in the world. You say you want world peace? Turn off the TV and start really getting informed. Create in yourself the will to create change, and help inspire that same desire in others.
The next step is to understand what you can do and how you can do it, which quite often is the most difficult part of the process. I can sit all day wishing that I was in Ethiopia armed to the teeth so I could protect girls from being assaulted and raped on their way to school. Realistically, that is not something I can do. It is not my role. I can wish I were in Bangladesh slapping men who beat their daughters and sell them as property, but quite honestly, they’re not going to be too intimidated by a pregnant, angry white lady. Each person must realize their options from the position that life has given them. Each government must do the same.
When implementing change, remember to act first on the sphere you have most influence in–your own circle of peers, your own community. Inform and inspire other people about problems. Form a support group. Help each person to become motivated to create that change and inspire others. From this one step alone you can create huge tidal waves of impact in your area, and have a lot more power to do more. Your next step is to get involved with other organizations that address the issue you’re interested in. 99% of the time there are other people out there who are interested in solving the same problems you do, and most likely have good ideas on what you can do. As you get involved yourself and have the backbone to motivate others as well, you will notice the fruits of your efforts grow, slowly at first, then explode. If you want to do something with the life you have been given, if you want to make a change in the lives of others that are suffering, if you want to inspire others to become actively involved in making the world a better place, develop a will and develop a way. Realize your potential as an individual; those who do are the real heroes of this world.