The snail’s pace at which gender equality is moving means that a child born today, will have to wait 80 years, yes eight decades, before he or she can see a world where both sexes are treated the same and gender inequity becomes a thing of the past.
That’s the sobering fact coming out of UN Women statistics. This means most us in the current generation will not see the back of gender inequities during our lifetime. This is even when the 2016 theme for International Women’s Day on 8 March was, ‘Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality’, and the African Union is marking this year as ‘African Year of Human Rights, with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women’, following on from its 2015 ‘Year of Women’s Empowerment, towards Agenda 2063’. Therefore who can blame doubting Thomases and Theresas who contend that such efforts consistently fall flat if tangible results on gender parity are to miss yet another generation. Why does gender equality still remain elusive, when wars have been won, incomprehensible inventions and discoveries made, and millions made out of women’s labour!
In the month of March, women-themed, empowering-focused events are all the buzz. Rightly so, perhaps. But as a colleague of mine bluntly puts it (and he is male by the way): “The world has fought and resolved deadly wars. Countries have built nuclear weapons, and man has been to the moon and back. But in 2016 women are still fighting for equal rights. I am so fatigued and it’s hopeless to think things will change anytime soon.”
I don’t disagree with my South African friend Moeketsi and, yes, in as much as most of us African women remain optimistic, and there have been some positive strides in this debate, gender equality is a frustratingly slow process.
In cases where some headway has been made (such as in countries like The Gambia where the harmful practice of FGM has now been banned), the positives are pulled right back when atrocities such as forced child marriages, or where women are still being used as weapons of war – cue the rape in Eastern Congo – are still the bane.
But away from these gory situations, even in the safe and plush environment of corporate Africa women still fare miserably. Despite years of trying to break the so-called “glass ceiling”, sexism and misogyny continue to hold back some of the best talent and intelligent minds in the corporate world, simply because they are women. As such, not only are the majority still treated as underdogs, they are paid less than their male counterparts even when they are better performers.
The New African Woman’s Special Report ‘Where are the Women in Africa’s Boardrooms?’ ( December 2015), which extensively quoted from a 2015 African Development Bank Report, a litany of shameful facts and figures reveal the state of the female-male balance in African boardrooms and by extension Africa at large.
Something is not right, and has been so for millennia! What can be done, and who will bring about the change?
The inaugural New African Woman Forum was held on 10-11 March is joined this persistent debate, alongside highlighting many other issues it sought to tackle and add a voice to this debate and proffer solutions. My own view is that it is us women who will change the game and fast-forward gender parity.
African women should not have to wait another 15 years, let alone 80 years, to be equal partners in a continent on the rise and to which they are 50% contributors towards its success.
However, this will only happen under the right conditions, with favourable access to those conditions. As of now, and as has been the case for years, this simple logic has been denied. In the words of Namibia’s First Lady (a term she wants banished), “African women need total empowerment, not tokenism”!
Half-measured policies on gender parity have indeed not taken African women very far!
It’s time to change the game, Africa!