International Women’s Day: #PledgeForParity

If we’d like to see children remain with their biological families in their countries of origin, gender parity needs to be a reality.

Robyn Chittister March 08, 2016
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In 2014, the World Economic Forum predicted that global gender parity would be achieved in 2095. Just one year later, they estimated that it wouldn’t occur until 2133. Gender parity is the relative access to education and health care, as well as inclusion in the workforce and government and corporate leadership. Where women lag behind men, that is the gender gap.

This year, International Women’s Day is promoting awareness of the gender gap, and asking individuals and organizations to #PledgeForParity.

On International Women’s Day and beyond, I pledge to:

  • Help women and girls achieve their ambitions.
  • Challenge conscious and unconscious bias.
  • Call for gender-balanced leadership.
  • Value women and men’s contributions equally.
  • Create inclusive, flexible cultures.

What does gender parity have to do with adoption? Not to put too fine a point on it, in some countries, adoption exists primarily because of gender inequality. Thomas Beatie aside, women are the ones who bear and birth children. In many countries, women do not have access to birth control. They do not have the right to say no to their husbands. Family planning isn’t so much about planning. Furthermore, women don’t have access to health care, causing greater death rates, not only from childbirth, but from HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other diseases that affect both women and men. It has been demonstrated that, the more educated a woman is, the less likely she is to have many children. But in many countries, women’s access to education is restricted or denied.

What does gender parity have to do with adoption? Not to put too fine a point on it, in some countries, adoption exists primarily because of gender inequality.

The largest sending countries for international adoption by parents in the US are:

  • China, which is 91st of 145 when it comes to gender parity
  • Ethiopia, which is 124th
  • Republic of Korea, which is 115th

The United States is ranked 28th, largely because of wage inequality and adolescent fertility rate (aka “teen pregnancy”). The US also does not have any guaranteed paid maternity leave. Who else sees a correlation between these problems and domestic adoption? You can say that correlation does not equal causation. But in countries where there are fewer teen pregnancies and more paid maternity leave—such as France (15th) and Finland (3rd)—we see fewer private adoptions.

On a completely different tangent, gender parity is woefully lacking in adoption itself. In the US, private adoption agencies and adoption professionals court pregnant women, and generally ignore biological fathers. Some less scrupulous professionals try to cut fathers out entirely, while others simply see them as an obstacle. Biological fathers tend to be discouraged from participating in the adoption process. This could be a complete blog post of its own, but I thought this disparity was worth mentioning here.

Back to the point: Proverbially, the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world. From looking at the data, one can see that this is patently false. The gender gap has negative effects on many aspects of society. If we’d like to see children remain with their biological families in their countries of origin, gender parity needs to be a reality.

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Robyn Chittister

Robyn is a full-time writer and mom through private, domestic, open, transracial adoption. She resides in New Hampshire with her family of two adults, two children, and a fluctuating number of animals. She is seriously passionate about adoption and tries to use her words wisely--both here and at her personal blog, Holding to the Ground.


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