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Panel discusses gender equality, development in society

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, women’s involvement in the workforce in Bosnia and Herzegovina was misstated. Women have been a significant part of the republic’s workforce since the socialist period. The Daily Orange regrets this error.

While sitting on a panel discussing women’s rights, anthropology professor Susan Wadley said there is a difference between equality and its outcomes.

“Sometimes, the push for equality actually brings major problems with it,” Wadley said, mentioning the recent shooting of a Pakistani girl and the gang rape in Delhi, India.

A panel discussion, titled “Gender Equality and Development,” took place Monday afternoon to celebrate International Women’s Day, which is held annually on March 8.

The Syracuse University international relations program and Sigma Iota Rho, a national honor society for international relations, hosted the free discussion.

The three panelists leading the discussion were Wadley, Azra Hromadzic, an assistant anthropology professor, and Farhana Sultana, an associate professor of geography. The event was facilitated by assistant professor of sociology Yingyi Ma.

Gender roles, how far society has come in addressing equality and the challenges women still face were the main focus of the discussion. Common topics included women’s rights, education, discrimination and change.

To kick off the discussion, each professor discussed gender equality and development in the context of her fieldwork.

Sultana said context, histories, class and institutions have major roles in gender equality. She said society has to recognize that gender refers to both men and women. In that regard, she defined feminist scholar development as “highlighting, questioning and understanding” patriarchy in society.

Hromadzic, who is originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina, said she has a different perspective on the issue of gender. She said development projects tend to want to help, but simplify the idea of help.

“What is the way out? Escape the cultural trap, it frees possibilities,” she said. “Focus not so much on women or gender, but on issues that matter in people’s lives. To do this, we must understand these issues.”

Ma, the facilitator, asked the panelists two questions before the discussion concluded with three questions from the audience. They covered the changing dynamics of world power, the women’s solidarity movement and how women misuse the gender difference.

The international relations program continued the celebration of International Women’s Day on Monday with a screening of the documentary, “The Microlending Film Project,” which is about microloan’s effect on women. Director and producer Rachel Cook answered questions about the film after the screening.

Ma inquired about the importance of women in leadership positions. The panelists agreed it is important to further equality, but it’s not the only solution.

Wadley said South Asia has had seven female prime ministers in the last few years, which is a dramatic and unexpected accomplishment. She tied this to women’s achievements in the United States.

“We need to challenge old myths and think about new ones,” she said.

The next question was about the main force holding back progress toward gender equality. The panelists said capitalist patriarchy, media representation and Western homogeny are to blame.

Sultana, the geography professor, said women are taught to be a certain way, and are therefore objected to certain roles.

Said Sultana: “There is too much brainwashing going on.”

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