The Girl Child

Headlines today read that Africa is rising.

That of the top ten fastest growing economies in the world, six are in Africa and are rich in natural resources. Development is on the rise and talks of economic emancipation are on everyone’s lips.

However, I refuse to accept the narrative that Africa is rising for one reason only; women’s marginalization from meaningfully engaging in the growth of this continent is rife. I write this from a standpoint of logic and sound reasoning as opposed to passionate valour. Women today are not considered as equals and are still victims of sexual violence, poverty and disease.

How then is Africa rising without half of its population?

We see this in almost every corner of the continent; women holding minority number of seats in parliament; women being demoralized from meaningfully engaging in the very economic activities that are propelling this continent forward; be it in the mining sector, manufacturing industries or service industries. Despite women being majority of the farmers on this continent, we still see that they have no tenure security and their contributions are most times going undervalued and underutilized.

Our Chibok girls have still not returned and are subject to atrocities for a crime no one should ever be guilty of, an education. These are adolescent girls who, against all odds, sought education in order to be empowered in their bid to become responsible leaders of the society.

Gender equality cannot be underscored in the African story, it is imperative in realizing our potential and prosperity as a continent and true emancipation can only be realized when we rid ourselves of this impediment.

Women’s empowerment and participation in the community and the workforce greatly increases economic growth, reduces poverty, enhances societal well-being, and helps ensure sustainable development. This is a proven statistic.

I give the example of women who reside in the mountainous region of Entoto in Ethiopia; women who make less than dollar a day from carrying 35kgs of firewood on their back in order to educate and provide for their children; or of the women engaging in artisanal mining despite its hazardous effect on health in order to feed their families; or of the ambitious Chibok girls who were targeted by Boko Haram insurgents because of the fact that their empowerment threatens the existence of their organization.

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It is a fact that when we empower women and girls, we change the world. Today both women and men are becoming increasingly aware that this undoes centuries of injustice and enriches societies; that it also plays a very vital role in defeating some of the most dangerous ideologies and organizations around the globe. It is for this very reason that we see large and experienced terrorist groups target a teenage girl like Malala.

To silence the guns in Africa by 2020, we must realize that addressing crimes against women and children is a priority; that gender inequality is not a woman’s issue, but a rights issue.

It is reported that regardless of the international protocols mandating governments to protect civilians, women continue to be targeted for rape and other violence. For instance, despite having one of the largest peacekeeping forces in the world, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has continued to play host to targeted rape campaigns by armed groups vying for control of mineral-rich turf.

Despite demonstrated value of women as peace-builders from Liberia to Uganda and Sudan, women are largely excluded from formal peace processes. Only 1 in 13 participants in peace negotiations since 1992 has been women. Women have served as only 6% of negotiators to formalized peace talks and are not appointed as chief mediators in UN-brokered talks. Lack of women’s participation often means crimes against women go unaddressed and peace agreements do not ultimately reflect popular needs.

It has also been proven that women add value to measures that prevent conflict. They can be critical sources of intelligence, such as locations of weapons stores or plans for insurgent attacks. Yet global conflict prevention efforts still fail to adequately incorporate this resource: only slightly more than 3% of total military personnel in peacekeeping operations are women. Similarly, only 13 of 34 peacekeeping and political missions have gender advisors, compromising mission ability to incorporate a gender perspective in prevention efforts.

The progress of this continent can only come about if persons in society work together as equals. We need to address education in a more holistic manner to address this issue. Men are as much the problem as they are the solution to ending violence against women as well as their empowerment. Society needs to learn and relearn on what manhood is about. Manhood is not about dominance, nor is it about inequality; and women are neither objects to be used nor abused. We need to start teaching boys and men that they are equals and that it is okay to promote equality. Men’s liberation can only come about from women’s liberation. That one day young men would be enthusiastic and pleased to be told that they play like girls.

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The Maputo protocol is one of our greatest achievements in formidably progressing women’s rights on the continent yet despite this, we still see that not all governments have ratified it.

The African Union Heads of State and Government have dedicated next year, 2015, as the “Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063” which reflects its rededication to the Pan African vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.

One of the aspirations for Africa by 2063 is an Africa of people driven development relying on the potential of its women and youth. This aspiration can and will be realized only when we critically challenge ourselves on the roles that we’re playing to enhance, ensure strong visibility, actionable commitment and implementation on the same.

To ensure sustainable growth, governments need to address structural weaknesses and deliberately and vigorously promote economic transformation with depth; this involves inclusive growth. There can be no democracy without women feeling safe and secure to live, to work and to meaningfully contribute to the growth of the African continent.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. frikalture
    Oct 27, 2014 @ 09:02:24

    “The revolution and women’s liberation go together. We do not talk of women’s emancipation as an act of charity or because of a surge of human compassion. It is a basic necessity for the triumph of the revolution. Women hold up the other half of the sky.”__Thomas Sankara

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