AS the world heads toward International Women’s Day 2019, issues concerning women are seriously brought afresh and to attention in the public square.
One quick observation one can make at this important day which is about to be celebrated is this; unfortunately, once again it will be commemorated while the world is still stressed and therefore struggling as it campaigns for women welfare. In other words, the task has not been completed.
In my view, we are not there yet, and the women agenda remains not only global, but persistent, untiring and permanently new. Even though I stand to be corrected, I am of the opinion that we are, as the world and especially here in Africa, still standing on shaky ground as far as the status of women and the efforts to eliminate of all forms of discrimination on them is concerned.
My position is simple, or rather humble and modest. Since the 1995 Beijing conference, a gathering which was, by and large regarded as a ground-breaking and an assembly full of promise, we still have a long way to go because the gaps are still massive when it comes to women in relation to their underrepresentation, poverty, education and training, health, economy, power and decision-making, and human rights.
Without prejudice, our mothers, aunts, sisters, and girls are still hungry for their well-being, most particularly those who live in the periphery. We have a lot to do, not only in areas such as violence against women and armed conflict or other associated sufferings of the girl-child, but also the need to add impetus in designing and strengthening institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women.
I would, in terms of the current needs, argue for the need to focus on two areas concerning women and the media, and women and environment as two forgotten keys for their flourishing. I know there is more to this, including safeguarding the principle of shared power and responsibility which needs to be always established and maintained between women and men at home, in the workplace, and in the wider national and international communities, but important as all these are, we still have a lot to do.
However, even though much still needs to be done, there is no doubt that we should be proud of what we have achieved so far. Without hesitation, we can boldly say we are slowly making progress. And to deny that nothing is happening as far as women welfare is concerned is to be unfair and one-sided.
There is progress, and our efforts have been clear. We should cherish successes in the business of removing obstacles to women’s active participation in all spheres of public and private life through ensuring women a full and equal share in economic, social, cultural and political decision-making. Put simply, we have made some notable strides.
When one speaks of major strides made on matters concerning improved representation in some African countries and empowerment of women in the public and private sectors through various countries’ constitutional commitment, gender equality cannot be underestimated.
Likewise, the vivid fight against gender-based violence, which has in many countries been intensified, and an honest appreciation and a sincere invitation by governments of the growing, diverse number of voices that are joining the fight against gender-based violence, is something that deserves praise, applause and approval. This is good news.
Equally important and unlike a few decades ago, we have now begun to see more women drawn into decent employment and self-employment, an improved and advanced women’s access to land and participation in agriculture and rural economies.
We also see increased opportunities for women entrepreneurs, worker-owned businesses in urban and rural areas through access to funding and markets. Again, this is good news. All these positive developments can be refuted just because statistics are normally not made available to many.
There is still a strong and sharp argument that advancing women welfare remains critical for Africa’s transformation. I solely agree and would wish to add to this important suggestion by saying that women have been and will continue to play an important role as drivers of change. When shall we recognise the potential of women and therefore empower them to successfully play their rightful role in all spheres of life?
So, shall 2019 International Women’s Day be a chance to chart a new course? I think yes. Yes because the theme; “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change” is encouraging, promising, and hopeful. In it there is opportunity for new solutions, particularly when it comes to advancing gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.
In it one can see a determination to advance the goals of equality, development and peace for all women everywhere in the interest of all humanity. In this theme, I also see a sense of inclusion and recognition. As Ruth Bader Ginsburg puts it; Women belong in all places where decisions are being made... It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.
And I know women can innovate for change because, as Eleanor Roosevelt once argued, a woman is like a tea bag-you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water. It is time that we challenge them to support one another.
Let them hear the counsel from Frieda Pinto, actress and women’s rights activist who urges them and says, ‘I call upon women to raise each other up, to make each other’s welfare a priority, and to never shame a woman for the choices she makes’.
But as I said earlier, we still have a long way to go, especially in the area of equality. And in this equality bid of mine, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is right; “We know now that without gender equality and a full role for women in society, in the economy, in governance, we will not be able to achieve the world we hoped for.