On this day, March 8th 2016, the world celebrates the International Women’s Day. The world celebrates the social, economic,cultural and political achievements of women all over. The day also seeks to promote gender equality and parity. It is also crucial to understand the relationship between women and sustainable Development, especially in Africa.
If development involves meeting our present needs without compromising the needs of the future generation. The first time I heard the concept of sustainability, I quickly imagined an African woman doing that perfectly, maybe because African women do a great job at managing poverty; by conserving money and food in the household so that both children and husband get something, are happy and satisfied and there’s almost always something for the next day and the even the day after.
That being said, Sustainable Development has a lot to do with gender inequality, A lot of people have always attributed Sustainable Development to only the Environmental part, By doing this, they oversee the other two pillars of Sustainability – Economy and Society which are very crucial when talks on Gender inequality comes up. Giving the gender gap globally and more specifically, the lack of education and extreme poverty most women face in Africa, more focus is somehow given to the Environmental and social aspects of Sustainable Development and inadvertently ends up favouring men. This has been the trend for a long time thus impeding the development of women and hence that of mankind.
The work of improving the lives of women has honestly been very inconsistent, In some Africa cultures today, women are still considered as second class citizens, higher grades of slaves, women are denied access to self development, expression, freedom of bodily rights, and paid lower in jobs (if they do get any) and scarcely ever make it to management and leadership roles, someone once argued that if women led most large companies in Africa, we may not be too far behind on the development Scale. So this lack of power therefore translates into a bigger picture – Female Poverty.
Interestingly, for a continent like Africa, we find that an endowed natural resourceful environment plus a resilient population affords us an opportunity to achieve Sustainable Development; but did you know that we are yet to get here because our women, our precious African women are responsible for 60 – 80% of food and water? Yet have zero or limited assets to natural resources like land, water supply and even ecological opportunities that make life easier (forests, farmlands etc) According to Human Development Report 2015, a survey was taken to find out that African women had uneven access to Digital Revolution (31%). Some Men boldly say that a married woman does not necessarily really need to work, go to school or even strive to pursue intellectual recognition, as long as she would get married to a husband that can provide enough for her. But what happens where that husband can no longer provide?
I would like to look at it from the perspectives of our current employment systems being so male fitted that women are rarely able to catch up. As long as women keep bearing children and caring for their households, they would always suffer from time poverty and a lack of mobility, where they have to take time off to give births while their male colleagues are getting promoted. I dare say that companies need to revisit this notion. Paternity leave is a nice idea too.
Most women currently in leadership positions are older and are not as active as their younger selves would have been. Women have serious issues when it comes to health care access and reproductive rights. (FGM is a story for another day).
There is however no doubt that the female presence is growing now than it used to be before, to sustain this, we need a better work/life balance to solve our economic slump and Skewed Demographics.
A Gender sensitive development strategy is therefore of uttermost importance to achieve Sustainable Development; that enhances the thought process of women, their capabilities, respect and ability to compete for their rights in terms of land, labour and product markets thus allowing them to laudable contributions to the environment, society and also the environment.
Today, we celebrate the women making their families work, striving for excellence in their careers and promoting Sustainable Development by just being women.