Stepping It Up For Gender Equality – This Year’s Women’s Day Theme

internationalAs countries throughout the world marked International Women’s Day on March 8, women across Africa reflected on their achievements and on some still unattained goals.

Caroline Kisia, executive director of Action Africa Help, in Kenya, urged African women to fight harder and “catapult governments into action.” Writing in Tuko, a Kenyan news portal, she credited the work of some major institutions.

The African Year of Human Rights (2016), declared by the African Union, makes special note of the rights of women. It signifies women’s chance to unite, network and mobilize for meaningful change, she said.

Other declarations and protocols were the Maputo Protocol, the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, the African Women Decade, the Fund for African Women … Such actions emboldened the women’s movement to urge Africa to gear up and step up action, she said.

Progress was made, such as bridging the gender gap in primary education, improving maternal health and fighting HIV/AIDS.

“Yet Africa is still struggling with women’s empowerment,” she stressed.

For starters, “women still face economic exclusion where financial systems perpetuate their discrimination; their participation in political and public life is limited; girls drop out before graduation and face gender-based violence and harmful practices such as female circumcision.

“Ninety eight percent of land is owned by men even though, according to the UN, about 70% of the crops are produced by women who have limited access to resources. Women do the tilling, planting and harvesting of crops, but men do the selling and take the money.”

Last but not least, “nearly half of the 42 ongoing conflicts globally are in Africa, and women face the brunt of these wars. Violence against women has reached startling levels, with one in every three women in Africa experiencing some form of violence in her lifetime.”

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality.” More stories and pictures can be seen on the Twitter page of Phumzile Mlambo, director of UN Women, @phumzileunwomen

Kisia issued a call to the continent: “Africa must gear up and take firm action in gender equality efforts. The actions should go beyond making declarations, and involve taking firm steps. There is urgent need for acceleration on commitments made in the last 20-30 years. However, the womenfolk also need to amplify their efforts, make their voices louder, in order to catapult governments into action.”

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