Women’s day celebrations focus on equity

Heena Joshi, consultant

“GENDER equity is essential to every society's DNA. Women make up almost half of every population and workforce, and ensuring equity means that we create a sustainably inclusive society within generations to come.

“It's our joint responsibility to challenge gender stereotypes, call out discrimination, draw attention to bias, and seek out inclusion in our everyday lives for a sustainably inclusive society. As corporate leaders, we pave the way in helping to cultivate inclusive workplaces and thus fully embracing equity.

Whether in Asia, Africa, Middles East, or the great Western world, women of our society have been subjected to bias and unsustainable value equations for centuries. The rise of feminism did not begin with our right to vote, it entered a sphere of relevance through it. Millicent Fawcett, is one of the women of the late century that won women’s rights, known as a “suffragette”.

A reminder of the meaning; is the right of a woman seeking to be acknowledged through her vote, which was through organised protest, her right to be recorded.

Fawcett was only 19 years old when she recognised the right to be heard for women, what we call in recent times, ‘gender equality’, the right to be known for our contributions to society. Over a hundred years since, we remain on the battlefield provoking societal manacles and breaching constraints so that our rights as women are expressed, observed, respected through freedoms. Freedoms of the right to education, healthcare, financial literacy, safety and security.

Equality for our gender would not have happened if it were not for the will to fight for it, with International Women’s Day, that celebrates and commemorates the cultural, political, and social achievements made by women in a wide variety of fields. The fight that applauds all of us involved in the struggle for gender equality and equity and recognises the hard won milestones that women have made.

This year the theme is #EmbraceEquity. The focus on gender equity was the agenda that Fawcett and others have been rightly claiming, and the IWD website states, "Equity recognises that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome."

Some of our continent’s women have been fighting in our corner and are acknowledged here, and it is imperative to mention that there are a multitude of talented, brilliant and acclaimed professionals that are doing so much in every major sector on the continent and they are appreciated for their unique contributions to our welfare.

A most notable woman from Uganda, Rachel Mayanja, a lawyer and diplomat serves as the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement. Mayanja has dedicated most of her career and the focus on this year’s theme #EmbraceEquity reminding us that the we must embrace every aspect within our genetic material in order to resolve to achieve these much-needed freedoms, because talking about inclusion, challenging the environment and acting collectively is the only way to make a dent.

In Zambia, we have Gladys Mutukwa, a gender activist, who is involved in the Women in Law and Development (WiLDAF), has been commended as another voice for Women in her life-time application for gender-based violence (GBV) to be strictly banned through law enforcement and intervention penalties and she prominently brought the world’s attention towards verbal harassment, which she pronounces as one of the worst aspects of GBV that devastates the mobility of women in  public spaces daily. The life of many women at bus-stops is perversely intimidated by the verbal abuses suffered and she advocated for stiffer legal instruments to serve in deterring offenders.

From Miriam Makeba, who famously became “Mama AfriKa”, (South African) as one of the continent’s prolific performers, a civil rights activist and an anti-apartheid advocate, who used her melodious voice internationally, by saying she sang for the truth, for the rights of her people to rule their own country, to Mbuya Nehanda one of the original forebears in Zimbabwe, who was instrumental in organising the nationwide participation of the first chimurenga (rebellion), inspired the country in a political movement long after her execution.

Women have pronounced themselves and refused that their voices be smothered, while they broke boundaries and scatters conventional beliefs, they were the original influencers in our feminist movement.

Another Africa first is President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, also a Nobel Peace Prize Winner, who gained international recognition as a formidable politician, activist, and economist. She was born in Liberia and studied at Harvard University, later becoming the first democratically elected female head of state of Liberia.

As a global leader, Sirleaf has worked to promote peace and social and economic development across the African region, giving back to create the conduit for other women in leadership.

Feminism and democratic socialism must lead to the creation of organisations that promote the needs of women in employment, education, and political participation. Our obsession with the demand for change is impelled by the vulnerability of those still exposed to poverty, the marginalised girls and women that are imperilled to systemic abuses of culture, society and gender discrimination.

Having the difficult conversations around the failure to help those that need it the most, we need multiple impact points for equal education, social justice and counting women to value them.

According to the United Nations, there are 132 million girls that are out of school around the world. This statistic is an unacceptable pause in the effort for female emancipation, it hinders the drive for economic empowerment.

Gender equality is essential for the holistic prosperity of society, it enables the women and girls to strive for their own social and economic rights, provides for a safer and healthier society that respects the human rights of all, and most importantly is the apparatus to prevent violence against our gender. Equality is about making sure every individual has the equal opportunity to make the most of their lives, their talents and their beliefs. The chance to overcome their birth-given circumstances and alter their pathway be it from disability of poverty.

Women suffer because they have fewer resources, access to the pillars of education and empowerment enable their ability to counteract their class, religion or fundamentalisms. When women are living safe, productive and fulfilled lives, they have a more satisfied and rewarding contribution to society as a whole. It just simply makes sense to make it happen so strike the #EmbraceEquity pose.

Joshi is a legal and commercial consultant

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