Gender parity in the African setting

Gender parity in the African setting
Africa need to change the way we look at women and girls. Courtesy Photo.

An old chestnut goes that women are the weaker sex compared to the male counterparts, thus they are inferior. This belief traces back to the traditional setting of the societies.

Gender simply means sex, either feminine or masculine, while parity is the equality or rather balance of the two sexes with reference to social, economic, political and cultural differences. Therefore, gender parity is the state by which both men and women are treated equally without fear, favor or prejudice.

In reference to gender parity, we can classify it in to different denominations: the social, the political and the economic balancing of the human race in both the ancient society and the modern world.

Women represent half of the global population, but they often do not have the same access to health, education, earning power, and political representation as men.

Under the social setting, the traditional society treated women with suspicion and carelessness, without considering their dignity. The women were also regarded as a weaker gender.

Men were treated with respect and dignity. This was as a result of cultural practices and customs of different communities. For example, men were regarded as the heads of the family. This empowered them and even made them the final decision makers.

It was for men to take the dowry to the women’s family in exchange for the wife. They also had the right to be polygamous unlike women, who would not marry more than one man.

Such an act was obscene and was regarded a taboo. Why was it for the woman to abandon her family and permanently resides with the husbands family?

The decisions of the community were vested in the council of elders who were men only. Generally men had the financial and economic powers. While they were busy looking for food and other valuables, women were left behind to guard children and homesteads.

The ancient society had very few women politicians and even community leaders. In the pre-colonial Kenya for instance, the Giriama community had a brave female leader, Mekatilili Wa Menza, who led the Giriama people in a rebellion against the British Colonial Administration and policies actively in 1913 – 1914, while the rest of the Kenyan communities had men as their leaders.

Thus, the traditional makeup of certain societies and the modern growth promoted male chauvinism, an inferiority complex among women and gender discrimination as a negative effect of the gender imbalance.

In Africa, most countries lack legal protection for women in areas such as property rights, child support, health and education. Kenya passed a law outlawing domestic violence only in 2015.

However, over the years, both women and men regionally, have worked tirelessly for the emancipation of women. Many are still working to achieve a more equal world for women.

Disparity against women is slowly fading away. Today, women have the same rights to vote and stand for election as men. Article 33 of the Constitution of Uganda, provides that “women shall be accorded full and equal dignity of the person with men” and it ring-fences one-third of the membership of each local government council for women.

“Article 33(5) without prejudice to article 32 of this Constitution, women shall have the right to affirmative action for the purpose of redressing the imbalances created by history, tradition or custom,” says the Constitution.

The highest ranked woman in public service is Ms. Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, who has been Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda since 19th May, 2011. Kadaga is the first woman to be elected Speaker in the history of the Parliament of Uganda. She is third in line of authority in the government.

Other key female players in Uganda’s politics include; Janet Museveni, First Lady and Minister of Education, Uganda Federal Alliance (UFA) president Beti Kamya who is the Minister in charge of Kampala city, the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and Oyam South legislator Betty Amongi, Kasese district Woman MP and Leader of Opposition in Parliament Winnie Kiiza, Justine Lumumba Kasule who is the current Secretary General of the ruling NRM political party, Ingrid Turinawe Kamateneti an avid FDC Mobilizer, Amelia Anne Kyambadde, Minister for Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Ms. Betty Nambooze, the most vocal pro-Buganda MP in Uganda’s NRM controlled parliament who represents Mukono County, North, in Mukono District.

Other powerful female government officials in Uganda include the KCCA Executive Director Ms. Jennifer Musisi, UNRA Boss Allen Kagina, the Commissioner General of Uganda Revenue Authority, Ms Doris Akol and among others.

Uganda stands fairly high in the effort to reduce the gender gap. According to UN 2015 Gender Gap Report, which scored a combined index of economic, education, health and political aspects of gender gap-indicators, Uganda emerged number 58 out of 145 countries assessed globally.

Rwanda, Namibia, and Burundi are respectively ranked fifth, twelfth, and fourteenth on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2016. Following the adoption of Article 9 of the country’s Constitution, Rwanda became the first country in the world with a female majority parliament in 2008, expanding the lead to 64 percent during the 2013 elections. Women and men in Rwanda have equal rights on all matters.

However, despite the negative effects of the gender inequality in Africa, the modern society has come up with amicable solutions that through their implementation would curb these vices of chauvinism, an ancient aggressive and unreasonable belief that males are a better sex than females.

Education is a great a great factor in bringing out gender balance. Through education people have learned the positive effects of working to encourage women to work in institutions and organizations.

Civic education is being carried out in various communities in their native languages to enable them to abandon certain inhuman and discriminative acts. Various Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are constantly advocating for girl-child education. This is meant to curb illiteracy among ladies and make them equal to learned men.

Certain practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) lower a woman’s dignity and portrays them as subordinates to men. In such cases, the civic education through the organizations educates the society on dangers of such practices that might ruin their children’s lives.

It is as a result of such cultural practices that the inferiority complex developed, it also created gender gap amongst the people.

The constitution has become a tool for curbing the gender imbalance. In its provisions, it entitles all children to education regardless of the gender or social status. The constitution also equates every citizen, thus entitling them to various fundamental rights and freedom.

The emphasis on gender balance according to the constitution stipulates that the female gender shall constitute a third of all appointments in public offices and parliamentary/senate nominations. The women also have authority and fair grounds to compete with men in various elections.

In conclusion therefore, the concept of gender equality is based on morality and is normally exhorted in religious establishments. The modern world has proved that all human beings are equal unlike the traditional setup where women had no voice in the society. Women were treated like a rare species.

Today the doctrine of gender equality is developing. It is becoming modern and the society is headed to equality.

Finally as an African nation, we must portray gender equity at all times as the nation that stands divided shall unite in defeat.

By Michael Wandati