• Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Gender-neutral policies do not promote equity – UN

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The United Nations (UN) has said affirmative action in laws and practices at all levels of government and the private sector will combat gender-neutral policies.

Speaking at the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) 2023 International Women’s Day, held last week, Lansana Wonneh, deputy country representative of UN Women, said gender-neutral policies assume that all genders have equal opportunities and resources.

“Women face additional obstacles and barriers that may prevent them from performing at the same level as men,” he said.

He said stakeholders should promote equity and make sure the laws are not gender-neutral simply because they started from gender-biased and have remained gender biased against women and girls and embrace equity.

“Gender equity is about creating an enabling environment that empowers women and girls to participate fully in the public and private sectors and addressing imbalances that can sometimes prevent women from accessing these opportunities,” he added.

The women advocate cited studies by McKenzie, and MasterCard which suggest that women-owned businesses don’t thrive as much as those of their male counterparts, and can be linked to social norms women face.

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“The causes are that even though there are policies that are gender neutral which from a private sector point of view may not discriminate against women and however the realities are that there are historical gender imbalances that cannot allow women to perform as men in a gender-neutral policy framework,” Wonneh said.

He said that there is a lot more to do to make sure we address those gender imbalances, many of which are rooted in social norms, outside the former policy framework.

Bisi Adeyemi, president and council chairman of NBCC, said we cannot ignore the barriers that women continue to encounter.

“Equity implies fair treatment, equal access to opportunities and advancement for everyone, and identifying and removing barriers,” she said during her welcome address.

Ada Osademey-Udechukwu, senior gender advisor at Africa International Finance Corporation highlighted that in trying to attain equity especially in companies, a disproportionate resource needs to be apportioned to it.

“Engaging men and boys is significant in attaining equity and also it is important to understand enabling equity requires a certain level of investment.”

She said these investments might include investment in technology infrastructure or even types of equipment.