The mission to equality requires unityTuesday, March 09, 2021
I alone cannot change the world. But I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.
— Mother Teresa
International Women's Day (IWD) 2021 has taken on a different dimension. The international community is currently locked in the struggle associated with the novel coronavirus pandemic. As a result, most of the attention is on this pandemic. As our communities and nations emerge from its ravaging effects, now is the time to end the exclusion and marginalisation of women and girls.
However, mere words only will not usher in a culture of gender equality and inclusion for women and girls across the globe. In order to achieve an inclusive society action at the community, national and international level is needed. There must be a conversation with our non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and Government using a bottom-up approach to transact and enable real change.
Unfortunately, in some societies, particularly Muslim countries, women continue to be treated like second-class citizens. Disturbingly, women in those societies must receive the approval of male guardianship before they can take any decision, whether regarding travel, education, or marriage. In many instances women continue to be paid less than men in the same jobs and some still face blatant discrimination in the workplace. In some areas of work male employers shy away from employing females in childbearing years. This unwritten policy is an open secret and in most societies the legislative framework which is needed to protect women is not in place. One can argue that since women are generally under-represented in representational politics it comes as no surprise that legislation required to protect women and children are few and far between.
Sadly, the issue of gender-based violence is oftentimes downplayed in societies steeped in patriarchy and male privilege. According to the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, gender equality is a question of power; but equal power will not happen by itself in a male-dominated world. International Women's Day is observed each year on March 8 to celebrate women's achievement and to raise awareness about women's equality. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Yet again the world is called upon to come together to unite for women's equality.
Why is unpaid work not considered as valuable in most societies? Women, for centuries, have worked in the domestic sphere without appreciation or remuneration, yet they continue to shoulder this task. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) continues to do tremendous work in women's rights by advocating for income protecting.
The UNDP argues that a meaningful monthly investment of 0.07 per cent of developing countries' gross domestic product (GDP) could help 613 million working-aged women living in poverty to absorb the shock of the pandemic. It would also contribute to the economic security and independence that is necessary for women to engage more deeply in the decisions that could change their future.
In spite of the structural inequalities targeting women, women continue to spearhead various campaigns aimed at bringing about social change; not only for the current generation of women, but for generations to come.
The International Women's Day campaign theme for 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help to create an inclusive world. We must make the collective effort to interrogate and break down the deep-seated historic, cultural, and socio-economic barriers that prevent women from taking their seat at the decision-making table to ensure that resources are more equitably distributed. The narrative has been repeated time and time over and not much has been done, now is the time for action.
In the words of Vice-President of the United States Kamala Harris: “There will be a resistance to your ambition. There will be people who say to you, 'You are out of your lane.' They are burdened by only having the capacity to see what has always been, instead of what can be. But don't you let that burden you.”
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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