One of the main barriers that can get in the way of women's and girls' empowerment is the attitude and mentality of men towards women. You can do great work helping to increase women's self-confidence and esteem, and thereby enhancing their independence and participation in the local community and wider civic society, but so often it is the case that women and girls are still subject to violence and discrimination at the hands of men. Changing how men view and treat women is another challenge that must be faced and overcome on the way to achieving gender equality.
This is a view that the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has also voiced. He was recently presented with "The Women's Leadership Award" by the Global Summit of Women for his work in promoting gender equality. He is the first man to receive this award in its 21-year history.
At the summit, he challenged men to champion the cause of gender equality, saying that women and girls still often remain 'second-class citizens' despite some advancements made for women in social, political and economic arenas. He said: "Men, I believe, have a key role to play in overcoming these stereotypes, changing mindsets and proving positive role models. After all, men are also devastated by violence perpetrated against the women they care deeply about".
In his address, Mr Ki-moon also commented that there are other areas that require focus and would help to improve gender equality. He outlined how empowering the world's poorest women and girls, giving them greater access to land, credit and markets, could not only reduce poverty, but it could increase gender equality as well. Furthermore, countries could do more to narrow the gap in women's political participation and increase their influence in decision-making. Plus, businesses also have a major part to play in recruiting more women and placing them in influential positions.
It's great to hear someone like Ban Ki-moon supporting gender equality so vocally and powerfully- his message about getting men involved in supporting women's and girls' empowerment is especially important. Gender equality has to be recognised by men as well as women.