As the world begins another meaningful pursuit in the creation of a viable society, where the ideals of individual, organizations and governments are held to world values and standards. It becomes imperative to x-ray a core feature of this sustainable development goal (right of women), from the binocular of the fundamental mandate of the African Organization for Standardization (ARSO); which is, to develop tools for standards development, standards harmonization and implementation of systems that enhance Africa’s internal trading capacity. The plight of women in Africa is no doubt one that has suffered blows from political structures that were designed as platforms for growth and development. However, they have debilitated the right to women sustainability and relevance in viable governmental processes. This debilitating scheme has been pursued through marginalization across sectors of the economy and in the appointment of decision-making committees.
In addition to this, there are sobering facts that attest to the snail-pace at which women’s right is moving in Africa. According to statistics from the United Nations (UN), a child born today will have to wait for eight decades before he or she can see a world where both sexes are treated the same. Beyond the threat to gender equality, access to quality medical care and education remain a luxury to women in Africa; as only 23% of rural girls in Africa are opportune to complete primary education and about 900 deaths per 100,000 live births are experienced; making Africa the continent with the highest maternal mortality rate. In light of all these, the million-dollar question that should be asked, is what role can standardization play in ensuring that the right of women across Africa is diligently upheld.
One of the areas where there is need for an urgent intervention is the health sectors. The problem of quality medical care in Africa is one that is both structural and comparative. The structural problem inherent in our health care system is typical of the level of manpower and equipment accessible to patients. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the acceptable ratio of doctor to patient and nurse to patient are 1:400 and 1:4 respectively. But in most African countries this standard for manpower in the health care system is not adhered to. Most countries exceed 1:10,000 and 1:600 respectively. This situation leaves most patients who are in dire need of attention unattended to, thereby resulting in more health complications or death. Making reference to my personal experience with the health care system in South Africa, where I had to take a friend who had health complications in the middle of the night to the hospital. We sat in the waiting-room for over three hours before we were attended to. When I decided to make an enquiry about why we had to wait for so long, I was told the hospital did not have enough staff to attend to patients. In Africa, this is the norm. With the increasing number of women visiting the hospitals there is a need for ARSO to ensure that our hospitals are not reduced to graveyards. Strategic implementation of policies that foster structural growth of the health care system.
Comparatively, we must understand that Africa is more genetically diverse than the rest of the world. Therefore, it will amount to putting a square peg in a round hole, if drugs made for consumption by Africans are not held by standards that are peculiar to our genetic make-up. In addition to this, as many women continue to consult traditional practitioners for solutions to health-related issues, the need for standardization in traditional medicine is very important. As this will have serious consequences on women’s health, therefore, there is need for standard harmonisation of safety, efficacy, quality of raw materials and herbal medicines. Also, there should be minimum requirements for registration of traditional medicines, legal framework and code of ethics for traditional healers. Moreover, incorporating traditional medicine in national healthcare system under the supervision of national standards bureaus will turn Africa into an influential global player and partner with
a significant share in world’s traditional medicine market. Since a woman’s health is her primary empowerment and wealth for the continent, it should be our utmost responsibility in ensuring that she is well empowered to give meaningfully to continental development.
There is an unbalance trade-off in the agricultural sector, where women are employed the most. It is very good to know that the agricultural sector employs women the most. However, women are denied ownership of land due to cultural set-up in Africa. The lack of right to inherit or own land limits women’s engagement in large scale production. Hence, affecting the sustainability of families in Africa. According to the 2015 Canberra Youth Ag declaration report, 40% of farm performance is due to management decisions, but there is a declining representation of women in management decisions. The responsibility of standardization is to ensure that women are represented in management decision committees and to ensure the ease of land ownership. These will help in making decisions that will ensure safety for women to carry on with their businesses, remove business bottlenecks and secure growth. We have the responsibility to feed this hungry planet by making the agricultural sector a haven for women to operate. It is possible to achieve a hunger-free society because women are naturally designed to be caring and trustworthy in the pursuit of a lofty cause of this kind.
Finally, in any average family in Africa, domestic jobs are often the responsibility of women. Domestic jobs that involve fetching of water, sanitation etc. Often-time, these tasks are laborious and time consuming, especially when accessibility to the tools needed to do them are out of reach or below standard. Therefore, developing standards that enable investment in infrastructure and product development that can ease the time spent domestic chores would be a very basic way to enhance women right.
At this point, I must re-iterate that building a develop continent is hinge on the amount of right given to women. This is because the woman stands in the safest square of our complicated chess board by virtue of her role in family influence and the motherly care she has. From this square, she can initiate the growth and development our society needs. However, to do this she needs a safe health care system that keeps her alive, an educational system that gives her knowledge, a work environment that respects equality and equity, and an industrial system that makes her daily chores less laborious. All these can be done if the African Organization for Standardization (ARSO) is true to her vision of “being an excellent centre for standardization.”