At the 60th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW60) in March 2016, member states reiterated their commitment in the 2030 Agenda to significantly increase investments to close the gender gap, to strengthen support for gender institutions which promote gender equality at all levels, to systematically embed gender perspectives into all aspects of implementation, to build accountability and give primacy to women’s leadership at all levels. This resolution, undoubtedly is a step in the right direction. At a time like this, the door of opportunities should not be open based on gender disposition but on competency. However, it will be cruel, if I strictly advocate competency, since in the past decades, we have seen preference been given to male in capacity building. It is time we advocate not just equity and equality to bridge the competency gap, but a massive development of the girl-child. The girl-child needs to be equipped with economically viable skills necessary to contribute to policies that affect her life. This we can achieve through women-centered policies that are in line with the 2030 agenda for sustainable development of women. Our policies should engage national working gender mechanism that ensures actualization of the 2030 agenda on the development of women. However, this is not restricted to the policy makers alone. Local authorities should engage in momentous and purposeful women empowerment programs, programs that are economically relevant. Beyond developmental policies, we must propose and implement policies that address gender discrimination in organizations and government parastatal.
Besides the contribution from the government, women civil society organizations and networks should create strong networks that objectively advocate gender representation and educate the public on gender related issues. They must also assist in organizing empowerment programs and trainings, make funds accessible to rural women for business purposes, negotiate social protection safety nets and mechanisms that can increase women’s agricultural productivity in rural areas, since most rural women engage in farming.
While this is done, we must be careful not to fall victim of gender marginalization, we must be objective in our approach to solving the problem of gender-inclusion, it must not be executed with reasons that breed parochial views about male, but must stem from a thoughtful approach that promulgates societal balance and healthy interaction. The world is big enough to accommodate views and opinions from brilliant minds, either they are male or female. We have seen female business leaders leading conglomerates with great insight, female academics who have gone ahead to make excellent discoveries that define their field, female leaders who are successfully leading countries and building strong economy and political structure. Therefore, it will be foolhardy to place a cog in the wheel of our aspirations for a progressive society by not harnessing the full potential of these men and women who work tirelessly to make our society great.
Importantly, we must revamp our medical infrastructure in order to enhance the quality of health care accessible to women. Our health care system must be comprehensive, accessible and affordable. If we intend reducing the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 percent of 100,000 live births and also the rate of death resulting from complications in pregnancy or childbirth we must invest in the health of people and not on white elephant projects. The lives of pregnant women and unborn children should no longer be at the mercy of dilapidated and outdated infrastructures.
Finally, in Sub-Saharan Africa, 23 percent of rural girls finish primary school. This statistic is embarrassing and should not be tolerated The gender gap in access to quality education is a threat to economic growth and development. Since the upbringing of a child in an average African family is largely the responsible of the woman, why then should we fail in empowering the custodian of moral values by depriving her access to education. We can either choose to sign a pact with entrenching a retrogressive society or consciously ensure that the girl-child have access to education and other opportunities that positions her to give the right direction to our future leaders. This conscious approach must be holistic, comprehensive and executed with all sense of urgency. The time is now and we cannot afford to delay any longer.
Writer: Edet Samuel is the Founder of Colloq Initiative.