The Twist Of Gender Inequality
Gender inequality is the idea and situation that women and men are not equal. In other words, Gender inequality refers to unequal treatment or perceptions of individuals wholly or partly due to their gender. It arises from differences in gender roles (Wikipedia). Before I delve into any issue, let's accept the fact that differences exist between women and men in our biological make-up. God created us differently and it is based on this 'masculinity' and 'femininity' that 'inequality' between these two may have emerged, backed by psychological and societal norms which have portrayed the women in the weaker position and have been accepted until now.
It is not readily known when and what spark the fight against gender inequality but in the 21st century, women and some men have not relented in drumming home the need to halt discriminatory treatment in favour of the male species. Inequality cuts across all aspects of their (women) lives; at home, workplace, politics etc. Unequal distribution of power, opportunities and resources, poverty, illiteracy, polygamy, inadequate policy implementation and enforcement of existing laws, low status of women among others are cited as some of the causes of gender inequality. The effect is a devastating impact on individual and society as well as drain on resources which could be channeled into other useful ventures.
Switch on your TV or radio at any time and you are sure to encounter a programme on women empowerment. The newspapers do not fail to capture news and pictures on one women organization or the other holding a forum or advocacy programme about violence against women, gender inequality or women empowerment. There are Walks in town every now and then campaigning for women's right or something. Hardly do we see the male versions of these. We cannot forget the fact that the government has created a whole Ministry for women and gender affairs.
The United Nations (UN) identified the need to tackle women issues and inculcated these in both the Millennium Development Goals 3 and 5, and the Sustainable Development Goals 5 and 10. Out of the 144 International Days currently observed by the UN, we have six (6) of them dedicated to raising awareness of the status and the situation of girls and women, championing their rights and empowering them as well as celebrating their social, economic, cultural and political achievements every year; These are listed below;
- International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (February 6)
- International Day of Women and Girls in Science (February 11)
- International Women's Day (March 8)
- International Day of the Girl Child (October 11)
- International Day of Rural Women (October 15)
- International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25)
There was none dedicated to men.
Mothers and women in general have been celebrated over the years with the institution of Mothers' Day. The noise made before, during and after the celebration cannot be compared to that of Fathers' Day. Is this not gender inequality in a way?
As for the women organizations, they are uncountable in Ghana, Africa and worldwide including; Ghana Association of Women Entrepreneur (GAWA), Alliance for African Women Initiative (AFAWI), Savanna Women's Empowerment Group (SWEGG), Ghana Women's Voices Foundation, African Women Development Fund (AWAF), Forum for Women's Development and Commununication (FEMNET), Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF), the African Indigenous Women's Organization (A.I.W.O), Leading Women in Africa (LWA), Zonta International, Equality Now, International Council of Women, Noble Women's Initiative just to mention a few.
All these reveal that from the home, to the society, national level and even to the international terrain, women and girls (females) have the power. They are cherished and have advantages over their male counterparts yet the fight is still on and one wonders why. So all this talk about women empowerment and gender equality yet nothing seems to change?
Now to the other side. Have we for a second sat down to think about all the opportunities we have as women as mentioned above. We only dwell on the negative while neglecting the opportunities and advantages we have over our male counterparts. Now think of these situations or scenarios.
- When we complain about unequal distribution of power and opportunities what do we really mean? Women have equal opportunities to stand for political positions at least in most parts of the world. How many women take advantage of this? Did anybody stand in the way of women who stood for Presidential, Parliamentary elections and several other political positions? What about those countries that have women as presidents? Were they not living in the same world of 'gender inequality?' So when we complain that women representation in parliament is low, I wonder what the government or political parties are supposed to do when the opportunity was given to them. I don't think because we need more women in political positions we should allow room for incompetency. Before we start to complain, let us ask ourselves; did the women come out in the first place? Those who stepped up, did they show maturity, boldness and confidence to sell out their ideas well enough to garner winning votes? Were they well prepared when they stood on the political platforms for support? Should we just vote for them because they are women and we need more women in government?
- Some violence against women are covered up by the women themselves so how do we address the problem. Our society, especially in Africa, has succeeded in getting women to think that, marriage is the greatest accomplishment in a woman's life and every woman must marry or you are not complete and cannot succeed on your own. How many times haven't women been judged based on their marital status and whether or not they have children. A woman or lady wants to rent an apartment and the Landlord/ Lady wants to know if she has a husband. Marriage is good but do we have to cover up evil in the name of protecting our abusive husbands and staying in an abusive home? They will prefer to solve it at home rather than report them to the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) to save their marriage and please society.
So who is to blame for domestic violence? Men? I don't think so.
- Women always say it is the nature of men to cheat whether married or single. This is the excuse some women give for their inability to keep their homes and neglect personal grooming. Well, it may be their nature but sometimes women push their men outside the home. What do you expect when you look like a bale of cotton at home? You look all 'loosed' up nagging, forgetting there are a lot of cute young ladies out there ready to welcome him into their arms, pamper him with sweet words and soothing treatment. A man would treat you carelessly if you behave and act carelessly, and some unable to control their temper would translate this into violence. (This is not to condone violence anyway). Apart from looking presentable, women should note that men also want active women with great ideas who can support them in their businesses and activities rather than passive ones who are always at the receiving end. There are women who have partnered with their husbands to build companies, churches etc. It was not all rosy for them but they knew what they were about. Remember they also lived in the same society of 'gender inequality' with the same 'inadequate resources' etc. A 'sane' man who knows the value of a woman's support would respect such a woman and even if he 'cheats', he will never disrespect you or be violent towards you. This is women empowerment.
- How many pageants have been created for men? Almost all of them are for women. Miss Universe, Miss Ghana, Miss Earth, Ghana's most beautiful, Miss World.... and the list is endless. These are all platforms created for women empowerment. Young ladies are groomed to take care of themselves while working on projects for national development. We only see the surface value in the form of attractive incentives that come with the crown of the winner and runners-up but all the women who take part are given the exposure to share their ideas, confidence to speak in public, showcase their talents and skills among others. Some of them get jobs in various sectors of the economy, become celebrities, opportunities to travel within and outside the country for different purposes etc after these pageants. Are we still complaining?
I think we have spoken more than we have acted. Are we not using all our energies to complain and fight for rights that are already there rather than channel them to work? This may be part of the reason some opinion leaders turn a deaf ear to women issues. It is not because they don't see or hear about them but they might be tired of hearing the same things all the time especially when women contribute to these issues.
Gone were the days when girls were 'truly' vulnerable and helpless because they were not allowed to go to school and get the needed exposure neither were they allowed to give opinions and express themselves at home and on national issues. Only men were allowed to talk. These days we have women studying courses that were seen as tough and meant for boys; Science, Engineering, Medicine, Law, Architecture, Accounting etc, and they excel in them. What is our excuse to make use of our intelligence and talents?
The interesting thing is, sometimes after attending these advocacy forums that we channel our energies to, the women come back home and do the same things without effecting any positive changes to improve their lives at home and in the society. The advocacy for women empowerment is in the right direction but let us walk the talk. When the men and the society see the support we are giving them and the good work we are doing to build this nation, we would not have to talk too much. We would have all the resources, support and respect.
MINDSET is KEY. We have tuned our mind to the fact that we have been made vulnerable and treated unequally and turned a blind eye on the changes that may be happening around us with our advocacy programmes. Women have the power and numerous opportunities and advantages if only we make good use of them. Singing about Gender inequality all the time only highlights the weak side of us and makes it worse. Let us change our mindset and work with the little opportunities we have. With prayer, determination, positive attitude and hard work we would eliminate gender inequality. Writer: Evelyn Liemuoh
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