On March 8th, the world celebrated International Women’s day, a day dedicated to the celebration of women and their unequivocal position in society. Our adoration for women must not depreciate as we see in the world today, but only increase and accentuate with time. The general populace can no longer afford to be intimidated into silence with regards to the way women are treated.
┬áThe discussion on March 8th was centred on what has been done and what still needs to be accomplished in order to advance womens empowerment globally. Whilst some countries have made improvements and significant strides on that front, a global assessment reveals that women are still subjected to mediocre treatment, which is barely acceptable. Although men also encounter discrimination and barriers just like women, it is womens issues that have reached staggering proportions and need immediate addressing in order to halt the spiral.
The issue of forced marriages is a phenomenon that is not showing any signs of relenting despite countless global petitions. It is estimated 14 million girls globally are forced into marriage before the age of 18. More than 50 percent of girls in Mozambique and 40 percent of girls in Zambia marry before the age of 18 ÔÇô the highest rates in the world. These are great numerals, too hard to fathom. Poverty and tradition are believed to be the main reasons behind this lurid and macabre act which mainly occurs in the rural areas where parents see the girl child as a source of income and wealth instead of an empowered girl.
The truth is a disempowered girl child is a drag to the development of Africa. Any girl who is forced into marriage at a young age has a high probability of not receiving the educational and economic opportunities that facilitate growth out of poverty. And perhaps that is why Africa continues being a drag to the other continents. We expect other continents to rescue us from our economic problems, yet we are the ones constantly adding fuel to fire by adopting the business-as-usual approach.
Therefore Chiefs and village elders have a great role to play in stomping this untoward behaviour. They have to distinguish themselves and be models in advocating for the enactment of laws that protect against child marriages. As long as young girls are denied their childhood, they will always have limited opportunities for education and employment ÔÇô two critical issues which cause poverty. At this juncture of world history, governments need to be assertive and go-getters in defending this horrid behaviour. For how long should we go on while the girl child is the cannon fodder who bears the brunt of this ghastly tradition?
Another issue that needs to be addressed is the issue of gender pay. This does not need rocket science to figure out. All one has to do is to read the sports section of any local paper and fight out the pay discrepancies. Why do male coaches have to earn almost twice as much as women? What is so special about men that they have to earn more than women for winning a chess competition? Governments as well as policy makers need to be made aware that investment in women should take precedence. It cannot be business as usual when the rule of law still sidelines and discriminates against women. This gender pay gap has real life consequences because when women bring home less money each day, it means they have less for the everyday needs of their families. Despite many successes in empowering women, numerous issues still exist in all areas of life, ranging from the cultural, political to the economic. For example, women often work more than men, yet are they are paid less. Much attention should be given to policy formulation in order to address these inequalities, biases and obstacles confronting women. Let us remember that by empowering women, we are advancing national development and in the process reducing poverty.