International Women’s Day 2024 – can we achieve Gender Equality?

International Women’s Day occurs globally on the 8th March every year in honour of the amazing women who campaigned for women’s rights and those who continue to do so today.

The role of women in society has changed beyond recognition over the centuries. From traditional societal expectations that confined women to domestic roles, the status and opportunities for women have been transformed significantly in modern times. However, there is still a long way to go.

United Nation’s Goal to achieve Gender Equality

The UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) no 5 is: ‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’

The UN SDGs are collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a ‘blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all’. The SDGs were set up in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and are intended to be achieved by 2030. However, the world is currently not on track to achieve gender equality in that timeframe. 

Whilst the west is making great strides towards achieving SDG 5 there are still many barriers to gender equality in Asia. For example:

  • In China, despite aiming to achieve greater gender parity for girls and women through the 1995 Gender Equality Official State Policy, girls and women still have a lower status when compared with that of boys and men
  • The misguided perception that boys are superior to girls is still exists in many Asian cultures thereby creating and enforcing gender stereotypes from an early age
  • The veterinary profession is still predominantly male, especially in Asia

The role of education in promoting gender equality

ACTAsia’s Caring for Life (CFL) education for children is based on the UNESCO’s Four Pillars of Education. It is concordant with the pillar ‘Learning to Live Together’ and teaches children to treat people, animals and the environment with care and respect.  ACTAsia teaches children aged between 6 and 12 years about the importance of treating each other with respect and reinforces that we all have the right to equal opportunities. As part of CFL education for children, ACTAsia celebrates the globally recognised Earth Day. During interactive sessions teachers impress upon the students that it is the role of all students to care for animals, people and the environment. 

Chinese teacher against a background of purple flowers
‘It is hard to train students to be better people, there are not many resources like CFL to provide students with a comprehensive, holistic education.’

Celebrating inspirational teacher Ms. Wei 

Ms. Wei has been involved with ACTAsia’s Earth Day activities for the last two years. As a passionate advocate for protecting the planet, Ms Wei works to instil respect and compassion in all her students to create a generation of future change-makers.

Ms. Wei’s initiative to incorporate CFL into her teaching is nothing short of inspirational. As Jian Yuan Primary School is not an ACTAsia pioneer school, her use of CFL themes and ACTAsia’s’ Earth Day toolkit in her lessons is her own independent project. This is testament to Ms. Wei’s belief in and understanding of the importance of building compassion through environmental and humane education. She is the only teacher in her school to conduct lessons on biodiversity and climate change and she ensures that all students learn to look after the planet.

Empowering women in the workplace

ACTAsia’s Caring for Life education (CFL) for professionals encompasses gender equality and encourages women to develop confidence and self-esteem in the workplace. By having the right mindset and confidence women are forging ahead and becoming change-makers.

ACTAsia’s programme ‘Train the Trainer’ forms part of the CFL education for professionals and provides vital hands-on training for the next generation of vets. During the past few years, ACTAsia has actively identified young women as potential leaders in the veterinary profession in Asia. Currently the training programme is led by a female veterinarian who has developed the principles and protocol. Among the Asian trainers, there are currently 17 male vets and 11 female vets. The growing number of female vets has exceeded expectations as historically the veterinary profession in Asia has been a male dominated arena.  ACTAsia is thrilled to witness this encouraging move towards achieving SDG 5.

Thai woman vet in clinic
‘ACTAsia’s work is not only about humane education for children but also about the continuing education of the veterinary profession.’

Success Story – Siraya Chunekamrai

From humble beginnings in Thailand, to studying at Cornell University, to being the first female President of World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), Siraya is a true inspiration to animal owners and fellow veterinarians globally. ACTAsia is one of SAVA’s educational partners providing educational activities for their members as they understand the huge need for speakers and trainers in the veterinary profession.

Siraya met Pei at the ‘Asia for Animals’ conference and for her it was an impactful moment: ‘I got to know Pei and I was very intrigued. I thought, wow, her job is humungous, and I thought if she can change China, she can change the world!’. Recognising the huge potential benefits of working together, Siraya knew that WSAVA and ACTAsia were a natural fit.

Championing women from ACTAsia’s Compassionate Choices Network (CCN)

ACTAsia founded the CCN in 2022 with the goal of focusing on issues affecting animals, people and the environment by using education to address, highlight and resolve harmful practices. The CCN supports Asian organisations across the region bringing together Asian spokespeople who work together to reduce animal consumption, to protect humans from harm and to safeguard the environment by promoting responsible consumption and sustainable lifestyles. 

ACTAsia actively champions women within the CCN supporting them with their goals and is thrilled to work alongside Chihiro Okada from the Animal Rights Center in Japan (ARCJ).

Japanese woman protesting
‘I cannot forgive anything that is unfair, I cannot overlook injustices of any sort. And animals are the weakest living things in our society.’

Success Story – Chihiro

Chihiro is the director of the ARCJ, a trailblazing NGO calling for animal advocacy with unmatched influence in the country. ACTAsia has the pleasure of working closely with Chihiro and the ARCJ through our Compassionate Choices Network.

In the decades since Chihiro became the face of the ARCJ, they have made astonishing strides in mobilising against animal cruelty and factory farming. Since launching their Fur Free for Life project in 2006 against the import of fur garments, ARCJ has reduced fur consumption in Japan by a spectacular 98%

‘I am also always watching ACTAsia’s education,’ Chihiro comments: ‘I want to implement the Caring for Life programme in Japan in the future and educate school teachers.’ As a member of the CCN, Chihiro is looking forward to continuing to expand the ARCJ and its animal rights vision. 

watercolour figures of women

This International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate the amazing women who are breaking down boundaries in their careers and fighting for a gender equal world.  ACTAsia continues to champion gender equality in Asia through education, celebrating achievements and greater gender inclusivity awareness.

If you’re inspired by ACTAsia’s goals and wish to make a positive change, please consider donating. Your contribution directly fuels our efforts, ensuring long term sustainable change. Help us further our cause and ensure a kinder future for animals, people, and our planet. Donate here