Let's step up efforts to attain gender equality

Friday March 9 2018

Women take part in a procession to mark

Women take part in a procession to mark International Women’s Day at Mlimani City, Dar es Salaam, yesterday. PHOTO | ERICKY BONIPHACE 

By TheCitizen

Yesterday was International Women’s Day (IWD) when women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements are celåebrated globally.

What was virtually the first observance of Women’s Day was in New York on February 28, 1909. The date was later changed to March 8 at the 1910 International Women’s Conference, and became a national holiday in Soviet Russia in 1917 after women won suffrage in that emerging world power.

The UN formally adopted IWD in 1975, and today it is a “call to action for accelerating gender parity, motivating and uniting whole communities to think, act and be gender-inclusive”. But, where has the world gone wrong in this?

“Gender equality” is generally the state in which access to rights and opportunities is unaffected by gender, while “gender parity” is a gender equality numerical concept referring to the equal contribution of women and men to every dimension of life.

Then there is “gender neutrality/neutralism”. This describes the concept that policies, language and other institutional frameworks should always avoid distinguishing roles according to people’s gender. This is to avoid discrimination arising from the impression that there are roles for which one gender is more suited than the other, etc.

Semantics aside, this is wherein come issues like the apportioning of employment opportunities and promotions at workplaces.

Take, for instance, reports that only 12 (eight per cent) of the 140 large private companies in Tanzania that were surveyed in 2016 by The Citizen were headed by women as chief executives.

Furthermore, more often than not, women are paid less than their male counterparts in similar positions.

Making progress

As noted in The Citizen yesterday, Tanzania is making progress – albeit at a crippled snail’s pace – in reducing gender inequality at the workplace. But, clearly, eradicating it root and branch is still a distant corporate dream.

Not that the situation elsewhere is that much better. It is still lamentable that only about 19 per cent of the CEOs of the world’s largest private firms were women in 2016.

This slight improvement towards gender equality, we are told, is largely because of functional regulatory frameworks on gender inclusiveness that are rigorously enforced by the relevant authorities, including governments.

Gender exclusiveness calls for being open to one and all – and, definitely, NOT restricted or limited to certain people. This means that, for example, education and employment opportunities are open and welcoming to all and sundry regardless of their gender and/or similar identity.

Experts are agreed that more needs to be done to achieve this. While CEO Roundtable of Tanzania (CEOrt) founding chairman Ali Mufuruki calls for “more aggressive reforms to ensure that women are accorded the same status as men”, Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF) executive director Godfrey Simbeye calls on women to be “aggressive enough to grab the available opportunities… After all, company owners want aggressive individuals who can bring in profits”.

Whatever is the case, we need to pull up our socks – and, more so, the government and women themselves – to bring about not only gender equality, but gender exclusiveness.