The International Women’s Day 2020 will fall on Sunday, 8th March. The theme for this year’s celebration according to the United Nations is ‘I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights’. Obviously, the theme does not deviate significantly from other years. For many years UN Women have been leveraging on the Equality campaign. Inasmuch as significant progress has been made, the goal is still a far cry in some sectors and countries.
To date, no country in the world has achieved full gender equality. The disparity in pay among men and women is still high. Also, in some communities around the globe, women are still refused access to basic education and healthcare. With arms put out front, bent and lying over each other, women from all around the world strike the #EachforEqual pose, a reminder of what International Women’s Day 2020 stands for.
— UN Women (@UN_Women) March 5, 2020
International Women’s Day 2020 is highly significant because it marks the silver jubilee of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. UN Women term that declaration as the ‘most visionary agenda for women’s rights and empowerment everywhere’. Education and health are two areas of the declaration that have seen significant improvement. However, there is a gross stagnation in other areas. Thus, this is a wakeup call for stronger movements and a more inclusive match for equality.
The United Nations Observance of International Women’s Day 2020 took place on Friday 6th March 2020. The venue of the celebration was at the United Nations Secretariat in New York. The aim of the event was to bring together change-makers and gender equality activists to collectively tackle the unfinished business of empowering women and girls.
International Women’s Day 2020 and the Gender Gap in Africa
As International Women’s Day 2020 presents another opportunity for gender parity push, there seems to be a glimmer of hope. Global Gender Gap Report 2020 by the World Economic Forum supports this claim. The report shows that Western Europe is leading the race with gender parity of around 76.7%. Second on the log is North America with 72.9%. North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia are at the lower ebb. In education, 40 of the 153 countries ranked in the report has achieved full parity
Also, the political scene reflects the sliming gender gap. Globally, women’s representation in political decision making has been on the rise. That figure reached an all-time high of 24.9% in 2019 according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). Four countries (Rwanda, Cuba, Bolivia, and the United Arab Emirates) have achieved or surpassed gender parity in parliament.
Rwanda now has 61.3% of women in parliament putting them in the first position in the world. Also, South Africa caps the top-ten rank with 46.4%. Ranking by region, Sub-Saharan Africa is the third in the world behind the Americas and Europe. Also, Women representation in the Middle East and North Africa has grown significantly following the removal of voting restrictions and the introduction of quotas as part of political reforms after the Arab Spring. Kenyan MP and President of the IPU Forum, Susan Kihika said,
“Our objective is full gender parity in parliament for all countries in the world. With so few parliaments reaching gender parity in 2020, we still have a long way to go. It will take stronger political will and concrete action by both women and men to speed up progress.”
10 Practical Steps towards Achieving Full Gender Parity
Under the Millennium Development Goals, the world was able to achieve equal access to primary education for boys and girls. However, women across the world continue to suffer violence and discrimination. The rising internal conflicts in some African countries share the blame. International Women’s Day 2020 should, for everyone, go beyond filtered pictures with the #EachforEqual pose. At African Vibes, we believe listing the problems is not enough. On that premise, here are some practical ways you can ensure gender equality in everyday life.
Say no to child marriage
Child marriage is a major blow to the girl child education. In some countries, the number of girls who are given out in marriage before they are 18 reaches 50%. Sometimes parents blame this practice on poverty and insecurity. Putting an end to this practice is possible and it starts with the parents.
Zero tolerance for sexual harassment
Sexual harassment should not be tolerated both at home and in the workplace. Organizations should have confidential channels for reporting sexual harassment. Also, there should be a clear punishment for offenders. This calls for the strengthening of judicial systems around the globe.
In most facets of the workforce, men earn more than women for equal labor. According to UN data, women earn 70 to 90 cents for every dollar a man earns. The pay gap is also glaring in sports. It’s time for the establishment to review their payroll and bonuses. Subsequently, emphasis should be on merit rather than gender. In commemoration of International Women’s Day 2020, establishments can adopt this reform.
It is time employers should consider diversifying their workforce. According to a study by the Boston Consulting Group, companies with a more diverse workforce tend to perform better. Companies can deliberately have a quota for women in their organizations. Elimination of the option for filling in gender during job applications would be a great start.
Encourage women to take-up non-traditional vocations
In some African homes, the parents choose a career path for their children. Also, it is a taboo for girls to choose certain vocations. However, helping women take up non-traditional jobs like driving, mobile phone fixing, etc. will help break that social taboo.
Support mothers and parents
Childcare is not the exclusive role of women alone. Something as small as washing the dishes can go a long way. To date, some countries don’t offer paternity leave which makes it almost possible for the men to assist their nursing wives. Offering a seat to a pregnant woman in a bus is something anyone can and should do. As a way of celebrating International Women’s Day 2020, support a woman. One act of kindness usually yields another.
Elect women into offices
Like aforementioned, female representation in parliament remains low. In many countries, women don’t even vote for women who come out for elective positions. As of 2017, only 17 countries had female heads of state and/or government.
Reflect on your words
According to research, humans usually have pre-existing notions on many topics. This is often the bedrock for gender-related prejudice. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to your comments and attitudes. When someone points out flaws in your speech, listen and reflect. Remember, it is easy to become a bigot without knowing it.
Raise aspirations in girls
In most African homes, girls are consciously prepared for marriage. Thus, any bad behavior is met with a backlash with sentences like, ‘with this type of behavior you will never get a husband’. Based on International Women’s Day 2020, there is a need to expand the worldviews of girls. Let them know they can be anything they want and not just a wife.
Celebrate successful women
There is an old notion in some parts of Africa that educating a girl child is a waste of money. This is also based on the premise of preparing girls for marriage. Some societies believe that if a woman becomes too successful, she will become unattractive to me. To tackle this, there is a need to celebrate successful women. Let young girls look up to them as role models. Also, this calls for attitudinal change on the part of men.
As we push to achieve gender parity, we must also take care not to lose the gains in some sectors. There are more ways to ensure gender parity and we would love to hear from you. Also, tell us how you plan to celebrate International Women’s Day 2020.