Gender mainstreaming can be described as a strategy towards realising gender equity. Fighting for gender equity means that we must recognise existing gender inequalities. Gender inequity disproportionately affects members of society that fall outside the cisgendered male identity, as that identity is seen as the norm and institutions and systems are tailored towards that “norm”. ESU maintains that there are in fact many gender identities and they should be recognised.
ESU’s Gender Mainstreaming Strategy is a framework for gender equity and therefore for all types of actions taken in ESU or by ESU. This Strategy must be used as a guideline for the daily work and policy development of ESU. Therefore, it has to be considered when adopting the plan of work and be in accordance with all statutory documents and regulations, and vice versa.
ESU commits to prioritising intersectionality in its work, recognising the way that issues influence people differently due to their race, ethnicity, cultural and economic background, sexual orientation, disability, genders, chronic illness, neurotype or mental health status, etc. It is therefore imperative to strive for equity and not just equality. Due to the various intersections of these identities and therefore lived experiences the obstacles an individual faces to reach a goal cannot be mitigated by a single mechanism but must take into account the additional burdens placed on an individual and alleviating those to even achieve the possibility of equal opportunities.
Gender equity is a core value of ESU. Higher education does not take place in a closed space. On the contrary, it is a fundamental part of a society and social mechanisms of discrimination are also reproduced here. Therefore, the fight against discrimination is a core task of the student movement. A human rights-based approach and democratic principles can only be realised with gender equity.
ESU represents over 20 million students through its members, and it is of utmost importance for ESU to take responsibility by advocating for gender equity and implementing policy towards this goal. ESU believes gender is a social construction created from various cultural, political, social, and psychological factors. This construct revolves around the roles that are seen as ideal or appropriate behaviour for a person of a specific assigned sex or assumed gender.
Increased attention to gender equity issues will improve the lives of all students. In a democratic society based on principles of social justice, each individual member has the right to the best quality of life possible. Gender mainstreaming initiatives seek to further this objective because by increasing attention to gender equity issues in ESU, NUSes gain networks and support to lobby these issues in their own country and improve the lives of students there. Due to the patriarchal structures of society being imbued in any institutions, people are not aware of the built-in sexism and the harm and dangers it causes an individual, including a students’ access to education, and ESU has the responsibility to make all students’ lives better and tackle the specific barriers that students outside the cis-male identity face.
Gender equity is not an isolated issue and therefore the effects of working on gender equity are manifold. Gender equity cannot exist without LGBTQI+ liberation, racial justice, disability justice and all other forms of justice as our liberation is inherently interconnected. While working towards gender equity ESU reassures its commitment to defending a person’s inalienable rights from any infringements. Continuous work on gender equity benefits the internal knowledge and working environment. It further sensitises members on the impacts of gender inequity and enables joint work tackling discrimination.