The new campaign for UN Women is Generation Equality, which easily aligns with the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day theme, “I am Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights”. It is the 25th celebration of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, however; the world still has a lot of catching up to do or the reality of gender equality may remain a wish.
The UN says gender equality is a fundamental human right and a much-needed foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. The question is, “Is that the case?”
According to the 2020 Best Countries Report, the general conception is that, Arab nations, countries like India and South Korea among others, have a long way to go. From the report, worst countries for gender equality, ranked by perception, using the gender equality metric has only two African countries in the top 10 and they include Morocco and Egypt. This, however, does not presuppose that other African countries are not lagging behind in embracing equality.
There is no denying the fact that progress is being made but the momentum needs to increase and not merely accelerated during International Women’s Day celebrations or other days in the year when women are celebrated. It should be a continuous exercise.
All around the world, majority agree that despite the slow progress, the desired result has been worryingly slow. Do you know that regardless of the activism and sensitisation, there is no country in the world that has attained gender equality?
There are obstacles, such as tradition and misconception that ‘women should be seen and not heard’. Sadly, women do quite well but many are unrecognised, some suffer ferocity at home and work, many, through their horrid experiences misunderstand the path of feminism and misconstrue its essence as a way out of being maltreated.
“The potential of the African continent is intrinsically linked with the potential of its women and we must work together to ensure that this potential is realised”, said Joyce Banda, former president of Malawi. It therefore, means that for a nation to thrive, women cannot be neglected.
In the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, complete gender parity across the world is still about 100 years away. The Global Gender Gap Index has been measuring the extent of gender-based gaps among four key dimensions and they include: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment. The 2020 report targets 153 countries and gives classifications that allow for operational comparisons across and within the stipulated areas.
The report states that globally, the average (population-weighted) distance completed to parity is at 68.6 percent, and as such, till date, there is still a 31.4 percent average gender gap that remains to be closed globally. It also shows that the largest gender disparity is the political empowerment gap. This cannot be far from the truth as in Nigeria, the ratio of men to women in governance and leadership is desolately lopsided.
For instance, there are only seven female senators in the National Assembly (out of 109) and 10 women in the House of Representative (out of 360). Some see this as a ‘welcome development’ after all; the numbers have not been this “good’.
All is not bleak as the report shows that in terms of economic participation and opportunity, Nigeria, despite ranking 128 among 153 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index 2020 rankings, is one of the countries listed to have improved. Others include Cape Verde, Mali, Sierra Leone and Indonesia. They all improved their performance by 5 percent and beyond.
The report further states that in 2020, the Global Gender Gap score (based on the population-weighted average) stands at 68.6 percent. It therefore means that, on middling, the fissure is narrower, and the remaining opening to close is now 31.4 percent.
There is a lot to be done in closing up on gender gaps if we ever dream of its actualisation. Among others, the government and companies must take lead in charting this course.
“Companies must treat people with dignity and respect and offer equal opportunities to all members of the society, leveraging gender diversity and investing in all of their talent through on-going up-skilling and reskilling”, Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman, World Economic Forum, said.
He further added, “Governments must create policies that provide talent development, integration and deployment opportunities for all genders, diversify the leadership pool and provide support to families and caregivers, in both youthful and ageing societies alike.”
In closing gender gaps, Ibukun Awosika, chairman, First Bank Plc and founder/CEO, Chair Group, has said there is a lot going on in terms of getting women on to boards, either by deliberate policy decisions or choices made by the institutions themselves. She therefore, in agreement with Klaus, submitted that it is in the interest of institutions to have diversity on their boards to the best that they can.
“You can’t be looking at issues from a 180 degrees view, you need a 360 degree view to look at matters and except you have men and women together at the table, you can never have a 360 degree view on anything because we look at things differently”, Ibukun said.
There have been various submissions globally on the importance of girl child education which presupposes that getting a girl educated is a positive walk towards the path of achieving equality.
“Issues like girl child education begin to really affect the ability of women to progress because if in the first place you are not given an equal opportunity at education, your chances are already affected,” Adepeju Adebajo, CEO, Lumos Nigeria, said.
However, in an article by Funmi Para-Mallam, a professor of Gender and Development Studies, she begged to differ. Her article draws on empirical qualitative data from interviews with educated Nigerian women, religious leaders and principal actors in women’s rights groups to demonstrate that merely increasing female access to education is an incomplete development strategy for reducing gender inequality.
According to her, “This is owing to the strong influence of pervasive cultural and religious gender bias.” Her article employed a redemptive‐movement hermeneutic within a Christian faith ethic to argue for a critical interrogation of sexist interpretations of biblical texts. It concludes with culturally sensitive and practical action steps within the education sector to promote a gender‐friendly learning environment and more equitable outcomes.
Obviously, there is a lot to be done in closing the gender gap, which according to Abimbola Ogunbanjo, president of the Nigeria Stock Exchange, “Will lead to an additional 1.25 percent growth in Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) while equally improving national productivity.”
It is his opinion that if we joined the committee of nations in the attainment of sustainable development goals, closing gender gaps would be vital to creating equitable and fair access to economic resources.
For Abimbola, “Solving the challenge of gender equality in Nigeria requires a multi-dimensional approach, which includes education and awareness, national policies on gender issues, setting specific diversity goals for businesses, mentorships and access to networks”.
Given the statistics on global and local reports, despite the slowly increasing momentum on the importance of women inclusion, gender balance or equality, the result of a gender balanced society can only be achieved if everyone collectively champions this course whether male or female.
The commonwealth has stated that there is now broad support for tackling gender inequality through the adoption of gender-responsive budgeting. The Commonwealth says that this tool can be used to analyse the impacts of spending on men, women, boys and girls to promote gender equality and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of national policy implementation and public expenditure.
However, while progress has been made to increase women’s participation, many countries are still falling short of global targets to close the gender gap.