OPINION: Why is gender equality so hard?

Saturday August 31 2019

 

About half of the population in Tanzania is female.Yet, we still have nearly single digit percentages of women in important representations such as senior leadership positions in the corporate industry, and participation in overall decision-making processes.

While Tanzania can take pride in some key milestones such asfemale members of parliament which stands at a not-so-bad 37 percent, and impressive equality in access to primary education; we are still a far cry from the aspired ‘planet 50-50’ by 2030.

The 2017 Word Economic Forum’s global gender gap report shows that gender inequalities are persisting in spite of the clear advantages of having women in leadership positions.

In the corporate world for instance, study after study have shown that companies that have more women on their boards get better financial results.

It is counterintuitiveto imagine that financial motives need to be used to support gender parity which should have been a natural thing to do in the first place.If the current trends continue, it will take 217 yearsfor the world to achieve parity in the workplace in terms of wages, and seniority – we cannot wait this long.

In Sub-Saharan Africa,gender inequality costs the region six percent of its GDP, according to the UNDP 2016 Africa Human development report.

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Coming to Tanzania, the countryranks at a depressing 125th position out of 155 countries in the Gender Inequality Index report.

With such reality, everyone must ditch their ‘business as usual’ kind of lifestyle and embark on a mission to learn and unlearn, every day.

We must keep learning different and new ways to keep the ball rolling in the positive direction and be agile in unlearning all the ways that have deep-rooted gender stereotypes in our communities.

Some of the biggest culprits behind such outrageous gender imbalances are the historical patriarchal systems, and pervasive gender stereotypes.

These have led to high levels of income poverty among women, which are compounded by unequal access to employment and high levels of unpaid work among women.

For instance, Tanzanian women spend on average 4 times as much time on unpaid care work as men, depriving them of time for valuable pursuits like income generation, gaining new skills and participation in public life.

In order to address the burgeoning unpaid care-work among women, the government and policy makers need to establish more care systems for the elderly and people with disabilities.

This will not only allow women more time to participate in economic activities, it will also create new employments and a completely new profession of caregivers.

After access to education and healthcare, the next most important entry point to gender equality in my opinion, is to reduce income poverty among women; both literally and mentally.

Low incomes have become so notorious that some women, regardless of how much they make, don’t find their income enough without some kind of supplement from a man; self-insufficiency has become the status-quo for some women.

This has led to dependencies which potentiallyperpetuate gender violence and stereotypes.

In order to shed off the deep-rooted generational beliefs that disrespected and devalued them, women must become the key players in the success of gender equality.

Theymust become the relentless champions by walking the talk. By leading a lifestyle that is unconducive for all kinds of the gender-stereotype virus; a lifestyle that naturally breeds and fosters mutual respect between her and the community.

The 2030 agenda for sustainable development is to leave no one behind; and indeed, true sustainability cannot be achieved without full inclusion of women.

As Hillary Clinton once said, “Gender equality is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.” Unless all people internalize and practice such convictions, attaining gender equality will become chasing a mirage.