15 March 2019

Celebrating International Women’s Day at the Graduate Institute

From left to right: Elhadj As Sy, Inger Andersen, Caitlin Kraft-Buchman, Michael Gaffey and Arancha Gonzalez. 

International Women’s Day 2019 was marked by two events at the Graduate Institute.

The first, the Geneva Gender Debate, held annually with International Gender Champions and the Gender Centre, was organised in Oxford Union style to debate the motion: “This House believes gender-neutral language is a necessity for gender equality”. Michael Gaffey, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Ireland to the UN in Geneva, and Arancha Gonzalez, Executive Director of the ITC, debated for the motion. Those against were Inger Andersen, Director General of IUCN, and Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the IFRC.

The debate picked up on the current global discussion on the role of language in gender equality, a topic that has received considerable attention recently. The Académie française has accepted the feminine form of job titles, the UN provides resources aimed at helping their staff communicate in a gender-inclusive way, and the use of gender language – even the word gender – has been the subject of recent contestation in some international text negotiations, with attempts to remove the word gender and replace it with the categories of women and men.

After hearing both sides plead their cases, the pro-motion team gained an additional 10% vote from pre-debate results, thus winning by a one per cent margin.

The second event, “The Hidden Face of IT”, organised by the Gender Centre in partnership with the ILO and Ville de Genève, shed light on the highly gendered nature of hidden labour behind the digital revolution.

These two events highlighted that collective efforts towards global gender equality take many forms and are a means to continue critical reflection and debate on how to achieve gender justice.

Watch the Geneva Gender Debate 2019 here: