September 30, 2016

Women and parity

On Tuesday, Guyana joined other countries across the globe to celebrate International Women’s Day under the theme “Pledge for parity. Planet 50:50 by 2030. Step it Up for Gender Equality”.

As was expected, the Government, local women’s rights lobbyist groups and international organisations heaped praises on women folk while reflecting on the tremendous challenges that are being faced in their quest for equality and parity.

Countless campaigns and special conferences were also held to discuss the current status of the ‘girl child’ with a view of creating paradigm shifts while redefining the concepts of what it means to be “female” and “feminine”.

Also, there was special emphasis this year by world leaders on the need to realise economic parity in order to truly achieve gender equality and a levelled playing field in which both sexes could realise their full potentials with the hope of being duly rewarded.

This is another step in the right direction and adds credence to the view that with more emphasis and focus, a lot more can be achieved in the fight for gender parity and equality.

Of particular importance also is the fact that the recently released Ninth Global Gender Gap Report states that it would take approximately 81 years for the attainment of gender parity in the workplace.

That report points out in great detail the horrifying fact that despite the perceived gains already made, key modern and developing countries are still not doing enough as far as crafting policies, programmes and legislation to empower, protect and guarantee the human rights of women folk.

Some of them have even seen previously won gains in the areas of health, education, employment and leadership incrementally reversed.

The tenth report which was released in Switzerland last November underscores the point that despite an additional quarter of a billion women entering the global workforce since 2006, wage inequality persists, with women only now earning what men did a decade ago.

“The global gender gap across health, education, economic opportunity and politics has closed by only four per cent in the past 10 years, with the economic gap closing by just three per cent, suggesting it will take another 118 years to close this gap completely,” it notes.

Interestingly as well, the gap has widened in 22 per cent of surveyed countries since 2006 and, while more women than men are enrolling at university in 97 countries, women make up the majority of skilled workers in only 68 countries and the majority of leaders in only four.

Interestingly, the Nordic countries still dominate the Global Gender Gap Index. Ireland is the highest placed non-Nordic country, ranking fifth. Rwanda (6th), Philippines (7th) and New Zealand (10th) are the only non-European countries in the top 10; and the United States falls eighth places to 28th.

Guyana continues to slip in this respect despite having moved from being ranked 48 out of 136 countries back in 2013 when compared to 64 of out 145 countries in 2014. The country has slipped back to 66 in 2015 as result of setbacks.

Despite this, there needs to be an end to the talk shops and workshop mentality that prevails in the country.

Sadly, those who have the political and policy power to make meaningful changes that will positively impact the lives of ordinary, and rural women in particular, continue to believe that the rolling out of one-off campaigns, holding workshops and engaging in cosmetic community meetings will result in an immediate change in the status quo and the state of the Guyanese woman.

There is an outcry by Guyanese women for the Government to do more to help single women, teenage mothers, women living with disabilities and those interested in becoming small, large and medium-scale entrepreneurs.

Simply providing them with secondary and tertiary education is not going to lift them out of the slums of poverty as many times girls and females are faced with a still strong stereotype that “labour-intensive work” is not for them; hustling is not for them; there ambitions must be tempered or they will offend the males and become unattractive; unless they are dressed as sex objects then they are not modern, liberal or up to the times or even beautiful.

They need, like their male counterparts, the capital to be able to make meaningful investments in various areas and to grow wealth that could not only lead to their personal upliftment but their entire family.

Parity can only be achieved when females are allowed to be at the forefront of CoIs, male driven industries and political parties. It can only be achieved if this nonsense about them being a “help meat” is frowned up and they are treated as an equal when it really matters.

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