The month of March each year is dedicated to the celebration of women. The International Women’s day on the 8th of march is to commemorate the cultural, political, social, and economic achievements of women all over the world and to raise awareness on issues affecting women like gender equality, reproductive rights, violence and abuse against women.
All over the world, women have been marginalized in the equal distribution of opportunities, but this problem is even more profound in Africa, where there are fewer opportunities for women to compete equally. In Nigeria, for example, women did not attain universal suffrage until 1979.
While there have been admirable improvements in the drive for gender equality in recent years, there is still more to be done. For example, in February, after a 6-year long legal battle, the United States female football national team won a suit to equalize pay between the male and female teams in all international competitions and an award of $24 million to be distributed to all female players in a backlog of unpaid fees. But this is only in the United States. In most countries, female sportspersons receive lower compensation than their male counterparts.
Each year, different companies, brands, and agencies use International Women’s Day as an avenue to promote their image, and government representatives make a lot of fancy speeches about supporting gender equality for the free publicity it brings, but in reality, they are not ready to do the real work of creating a gender-equal world. In Nigeria, the week before Women’s day, five bills to create opportunities for women in politics, governance, and the society at large, including a bill to provide additional seats for women in the National Assembly and a mandatory 35% appointment of women to political positions were rejected by the 9th Senate.
The theme for the 2022 celebration is Breaking The Bias. And while it’s okay to post on social media, here is how you can actually work towards a more gender-equal world.
1) Equal Pay: It is a common fact that in a lot of organizations, men are paid more than women for the same amount of work and sometimes for doing less work. According to the World Economic Forum, as of 2020, the global gender pay gap stood at 50%. According to the World Bank, globally, countries lose $160 trillion in wealth as a result of differences in lifetime earnings between women and men. Nothing will hasten gender equality more than bridging the gender pay gap.
2) Female-Focused Mentorship and Investment Programs: Already, there is an imbalance in the number of opportunities available to women, so these programs, which are created specifically for women, will open more doors. Odun Eweniyi’s First Check Africa, a venture capital firm that invests in female-led startups in their early stages, and Tony Elumelu’s decision to devote his march mentorship session to women are a few initiatives that support women in business.
3) Female Education: Despite the increase in educational opportunities, girls still receive less schooling than men, especially in developing countries. An increase in educational opportunities, specifically for women, like scholarships, will go a long way in promoting gender equality.
4) Female and Family-Friendly Work Policies: In most homes, especially in Nigeria, the burden of childcare rests on the mother, and this may have adverse effects on her career progression. More companies should institute policies that enable working mothers to successfully integrate their work and home lives without anyone suffering. For example, six-month paid maternity and paternity leave for new parents and office creches go a long way in helping women as they do not give up their careers as a result of motherhood.
Gender equality is not something that can be achieved in a day, the systems and structures that promote inequality have existed for a long time and will not be dismantled easily. But if a conscious and continuous effort is made, then achieving a gender-equal world is definitely possible.
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