Accelerating GENDER EQUALITY in Africa

Every time I look at my two little girls, I get over protective and anyway what would any responsible father do? Watching them grow every day, makes me wish for them nothing less than gold, in all its forms. Gold in this case would stand for the right to participate in decision-making in the home, economy and society, right to inherit property/assets, right to empowerment, right to education and the right to anything their male counterparts has. Well, this will not just be wishful thinking for me; I have the key to accelerating gender equality right from my homestead and my community.

According to the Africa Human Development Report 2016, gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa on average $US95 billion a year, 6% of the region’s GDP, thus jeopardizing the continent’s efforts for inclusive human development and economic growth.

Taking it about 69 years ago when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, to 20 years ago of the Millennium development goals and the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals, global attention has been focused on promoting human rights and eliminating discrimination.  However, despite the relentless efforts in respecting women’s rights by some countries and some governments, inequalities persist. There are still political, economic and social drivers that hamper African women’s advancement especially when it comes to the unequitable treatment and access to resources and opportunities for women and men.

Removing inequalities for women has not kept pace for a number of reasons to include:

  • The spectrum of violence in all forms; domestic violence, intimate partner violence, rape, female genital mutilation, intimidation, and additional threats to women´s personal security in periods of war and conflict
  • Islamic Sharia law often plays a large role in the governance of personal matters like marriage, divorce and inheritance among Muslim populations to include stipulations that womencannot pass citizenship to their children, spousal rape is not illegal, two women are equal to one man in court and women cannot divorce their husbands.
  • Existing legal and social norms, and the ways they interact have a major effect on gender equality and women’s empowerment. Very few African countries have non-discriminatory gender laws.
  • With respect to education, it is remarkable that near gender parity has been achieved in primary school enrolment. However, gender discrimination is still significant in secondary and tertiary education.

These are reasons that have been adopted form different countries and across cultures in Africa but even we are to look at our communities, the situation isn’t any better. Girls are forced to trek long distances to fetch water, it’s the girls that are forced to do all the chores at home, it’s the girls whose education is sacrificed once the family’s income drop, it’s the girls that are forced in to early marriages to boost the family’s financial status.  Well, we have to choose approaches that can help African countries to more forcefully confront the challenge and accelerate progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Let us start by keeping our girls in schools. As we work hard to sustain the boys in school, the girls have a right to the quality education too. We should stop hiding behind the notion that women will not belong to their family but to the family of their husbands, so what? She stays your pretty little girl, whether she goes to the husband’s side or not.

Boys and girls should do the same chores at home. What would happen to a boy if he washed utensils or mopped the house or even cooked? Teach a boy that he is equal to his sister and he will never deviate from that teaching, he will never have the audacity to raise his hand to beat his wife, charity starts at home.

Although there are political initiates to drive women empowerment, accelerating gender parity right from our homes will be the only strategy that will yield sustainable results for our continent.

picture: Credit 123rf.com

Women are not your Property, they are your partners to live with and respect

Fostering gender parity in the socio-economic and political arena in Rwanda has been a successful endeavor, however, some reports still hint at a gloomier picture in the success stories of women empowerment in the country. As Rwanda joins the rest of the world to mark the international women’s day, we have to recognize that the government of Rwanda has relentlessly strived to promote women’s economic empowerment in a number of ways. All the ways have been aimed at fighting all forms of injustice including gender based violence, ensure women economic empowerment and break the barriers that hinder women to reach their full potential in adding their contribution to national development.

Due to government’s unwavering efforts, in 2015, the Inter-Parliamentary Union updated its database to reveal that Rwanda had more women than men in parliament at 63.8%. Still in 2015, the Global Gender Gap Report named Rwanda as the best place to be a woman in Africa, also the sixth in closing gender gaps world-wide. All these achievements indicate a strong commitment for advancing and sustaining gender equality and empowerment.

However, we can’t blindly ignore the few cases that still impede the development of women. The Rwanda National Police in one its periodic reports indicated a decline in rape, defilement and physical abuse cases, but even the few victims of GBV are inexcusable. The ordeals narrated by the women who fall prey of the shameless men in the society reveal a permanent damage on the victims. Studies have indicated that some women in our lives are either sexual-assault victims or survivors of domestic abuse and these life experiences leave life-time pain and trauma. Some women sustain permanent physical injuries, others live miserable lives while others lose their lives.

Scanning through the regional or global scene, women are still trafficked and sold as sex slaves. Women and girls are ensnared in sex trafficking in a variety of ways: some are lured with offers of legitimate work as shop assistants or waitresses in developed countries, while others are promised marriage, educational opportunities or even a better life. Worse still, many are sold into trafficking by boyfriends, friends, neighbors or even parents. When the protector becomes the betrayer, just for an extra coin! The victims are physically and psychologically tortured, deprived of food and sleep and forced to start a new and degrading life.

One thing that I have always asked myself but failed to get an answer is, “they are our mothers, daughters, aunties, sisters, friends, spouses, nieces and cousins, but why do we hurt or abuse them to an extent of even killing them, why beat them up simply because we want to feel more powerful, why plot deviously against them for a few minutes pleasure?” Well, this still boggles my mind, but maybe I am not alone. Either way, I believe that the best way to eliminate violence against women is not only speaking out but having the men’s voice strongly backing them. #BeBoldForChange, stand up and fight injustices against women!