COMMENT: Equality in action: Celebrating women’s victories in the fight for fairness and recognition

31 Mar, 2024 - 00:03 0 Views
COMMENT: Equality in action: Celebrating women’s victories in the fight for fairness and recognition

The Sunday News

THE month of March has seen a beautiful celebration of women’s achievements and accomplishments. 

Women’s Month, an annual observance to highlight the contribution of women to events in history and contemporary society, has its roots as far back as 1908.

Against a backdrop of terrible working conditions and exploitation, 15 000 women took to the streets in New York protesting for shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.

The next year, 1909, the Socialist Party of America announced a National Women’s Day to honour the strikers and in 1910 it went global. 

The Socialist International voted for the creation of a Women’s Day to advocate for suffrage. The first International Women’s Day was held in 1911, and more than a million people turned out to rallies in Europe.

For most of the 20th century, International Women’s Day was acknowledged and celebrated by people at the grassroots level, a rallying point for social justice. It wasn’t until 1975 — International Women’s Year — that the United Nations adopted International Women’s Day on 8 March, when it is still held.

Such campaigns have helped create a world that’s diverse, equitable and inclusive. The campaign raises greater awareness about issues impacting women’s equality; it takes a stance to call out inequality while working to forge positive action as well as highlight and applaud where important gains are made.

It seeks to create a world where difference is valued and celebrated. 

Women’s Month and International Women’s Day have helped knock off bias, stereotypes, and discrimination that often pull women back.

Back in 1911, only eight countries allowed women to vote, equal pay for equal work was unheard of — if women were allowed to work at all — and reproductive rights were non-existent.

In Rhodesia, women would not dare dream of buying property on their own, opening a bank account or even driving a car. Land, cattle or a roof over their heads were often provided by men.

Women were second-class citizens who were good for nothing but bearing children and tending to those offspring.

Buying property was mostly done within the confines of a marriage, not by a woman single-handedly.

Educating a girl was considered a waste of time and money as families believed they would eventually be married off and their education would not be of benefit to their clan. Often, women felt obliged to be the glue that kept marriages together, even when things were not working; even when physical and emotional abuse were extensive.

Financial dependency forced women to stay in relationships where they were abused and considered less human.

But the story has changed for a significant chunk of women who are now pursuing careers in various fields and excelling. Many programmes have been put in place to empower women and girls and promote gender equity. 

The advancement of gender equality, affirmative action and various women empowerment programmes have changed the narrative for women in Zimbabwe. The Government has come up with deliberate policies and programmes to empower women both economically and politically.

The National Gender Policy adopted in 2013 as a development of its predecessor adopted in 2004 dedicates to create a fair society where all citizens enjoy equality of opportunities and participation in all sectors.

The country is party to international protocols such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR), the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BDPA).

On a regional level, the country is signatory to the Sadc Gender and Development Declaration which also seeks to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

This has helped women smash glass ceilings and take up space in important decision making matrices.

Women are now studying to become prominent businesspeople, engineers, executives, doctors, authors, journalists, bankers, politicians — the list is endless.

Now, society is raising girls who believe they can run the course on their own. Women who don’t need a man to buy a house, a car or to be successful. This is a significant stride in the attainment of gender equity.

Women like Dr Madeline Nyamwanza-Makonese, the country’s first female black medical doctor, Anita Mapiye, the first female combat helicopter pilot at the Airforce of Zimbabwe, Cde Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, the first female Minister of Defence and more, too many to mention, are good examples of what women can do when they’re given the opportunity.

Gender roles are slowly peeling off and men now understand the importance of being involved in their children’s lives. They now understand that cooking, cleaning and changing a baby’s diapers does not have to be a woman’s job alone.

Women are now empowered to make bold financial decisions, participate in politics and take up space in various industries across the country’s economy — a positive that the country needs. 

Through campaigns such as Women’s Month, we can continue to furnace women’s equality, celebrate their achievements and raise awareness about discrimination. 

 

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