Gender equality and equity are not new terms or creations. These are words often used in social justice circles, and recently, in a number of headlines.
The terms have become very popular, especially in the field of civil society organizations focusing on women and girls. Despite the popularity of the terms, many people still misinterpret their meaning to mean that women and men or boys and girls will become the same. Nope! The term “gender equality” simply means that the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men will not depend on whether they were born male or female. I hope you will have it now? It’s as simple as that.
On the other hand, gender equity means equal treatment for women and men, according to their respective needs or particularities. This can include equal treatment or different treatment, but considered equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations and opportunities.
Likewise, when we talk about opportunity, we are talking about ensuring that opportunity is not limited simply on the basis of gender. Nope! We’re just talking about correcting gender biases so that economic outcomes improve for everyone.
Even though research has shown that women contribute substantially to the economy of the world, particularly on the African continent, throughout the ages, these same women have been systematically excluded from decision-making spaces and programs that affect their health. and their well-being.
Some studies have, for example, estimated that based on current progress, women will not achieve equal pay or leadership with men for at least 170 years worldwide. This raises a major concern for all who care about the well-being of women and girls to take action to end these systemic practices that hinder the development of women and girls, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Essential Voices initiative
As part of efforts to help redress gender disparities and give women a space to speak out on issues that affect their very existence in Francophone West and Central Africa, Speak Up Africa has launched the Voix ESSentiELLES in July 2021 to build the capacities and skills of women. and girls and women-led groups to contribute meaningfully to the decision-making process on issues that affect their lives and well-being.
The initiative aimed to enable the participation of community and local organizations, networks and leaders of women and girls in decision-making platforms at different levels relevant to their health outcomes.
The Voix EssentiELLES initiative is co-financed by the CHANEL Foundation and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
It is Speak Up Africa’s belief that “voice, decision-making and leadership are vital factors for women’s empowerment” and that “these factors ensure that women can voice their preferences, demands, opinions and interests, and that they can access decision-making positions”.
Speak Up Africa is a Dakar-based political action and advocacy group dedicated to catalyzing leadership, enabling policy change and increasing awareness of sustainable development in Africa.
Mrs. Patricia Isabella Essel is the project manager of Plan International Ghana’s program entitled: “Women’s Voice and Leadership—Ghana Project”.
In her contribution to the topic, Ms. Essel, said that “gender equality is not a gender or anti-male war; both genders have a stake in the struggle to ensure fairness and equality as much as both can be victimized.
For her, gender equality does not mean that women and men, or girls and boys are the same and that women and men, girls and boys, have different but related needs and priorities. , face different constraints and benefit from different opportunities.
“From where I sit and with the organization I work with, gender equality means that all people, regardless of gender, have the same status in society; have the same rights to all human rights; enjoy the same level of respect in the community; can take advantage of the same opportunities to make choices about their lives; and have equal power to shape the outcomes of those choices,” explained gender equality campaigner Ms. Essel.
In her view, women and men are affected in different ways by policies and programs and that a gender equality approach is about understanding these relative differences and intersecting identities, and appreciating that they are not are not rigid and can be modified.
Ultimately, she noted, promoting gender equality means transforming power relations between women and men, girls and boys and individuals with different gender identities in order to create a society fairer for all.
For Ms. Essel, “part of a strategy to achieve gender equality is gender equity”, explaining that a gender equity approach is the deliberate process of being fair in order to produce equal and measurable results.
She added, “To ensure equity, strategies and measures must often be available to compensate for historical and social disadvantages of women that prevent women and men from otherwise operating on an equal footing.”
It is said that given the current rate of progress in closing gender gaps, it will potentially take 121.7 years to close these gaps in sub-Saharan Africa. This is a major challenge that must be addressed from all angles by all stakeholders.
Rationale for Gender Equality and Equity
Addressing the benefits of achieving gender equality and equity in Ghana, Ms. Essel, said that there are innumerable benefits of advancing quality and gender equity.
For her, gender equality and equity promotes the enjoyment of human rights by all, regardless of gender, race, color, identity, language, status, etc. This helps correct gender biases so that socio-economic outcomes improve everyone’s life.
Furthermore, she noted, gender equality and equity influence and create a more peaceful world, explaining that having more gender-inclusive ways in decision-making, for example, will foster a long-term sustainable development and peace.
“Everyone deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential and gender equality helps create a world without limits. When action is taken to advance gender equality, barriers are removed to create a world of endless possibilities,” Ms. Essel observed.
The Women’s Voice and Leadership Project Manager of Plan International Ghana – Ghana further noted that gender equality and equity promotes equal opportunities for both genders to meaningfully engage in the process. at all levels and that failure to include women and girls in decision-making processes often means that their concerns and protection risks are not taken into account in Ghana’s overall response .
Likewise, she noted, achieving gender equality and equity will help provide women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work and representation in political and economic decision-making processes, thereby contributing to sustainable economies that benefit societies and humanity. in general.
What should Ghana do?
Proposing ways in which Ghana can achieve gender equality and equity, Ms. Essel noted that there is a need to address the problem of ignorance, as well as to raise awareness about gender norms.
She further observed that there was a need to prioritize gender equality and equity on the national agenda and to put in place systems and structures to ensure that they are met. directly attack the various inequalities that exist in different areas, including, but not limited to, education, health, employment, access to productive resources, leadership and decision-making.
For her, strong policy guidance and implementation is essential to ensure that available policies are later implemented and “grey areas should have policies or a legal framework in place for implementation, for example, by passing the Affirmative Action Bill in Ghana to ensure parity. in decision-making processes.
Ms Essel also called for gender-responsive educational structures, noting that “there has been a lot of progress in improving access to education, but progress in retaining them as they move up scale have been slow”.
She added that “there is much to do in the area of improving the gender sensitivity of the education system, including ensuring that textbooks promote positive stereotypes. It is critically important that girls come out of school as citizens capable of shaping a more equal society. »
For her, there is a need to engage and involve men and boys in the processes to achieve gender equality and equity in Ghana, adding that “there is a need to work hand in hand with men and boys, in line and in place with women. and girls, in promoting gender equality.
Ms. Essel is of the opinion that “we must underline that the promotion of gender equality is not about granting privileges to women while weakening men. It’s about creating integrated approaches that benefit everyone.