Of all the bad and disgraceful experiences the world has ever seen, those that have an effect on a specific or targeted group as a whole has secured a black point in history. There were colonialism, apartheid, caste system, ethnic cleansing, etc. The seriousness of these is that the effect is total as it influences the whole member of a specific group. This means, when it deprives a chance it does so to the whole, hence it make the cost much heavier.
One such experience which is pervasive everywhere is gender inequality. It is a sad fact that women share equal role in raising a society but are seen and treated as less. They have been subjected to various forms of suppression by the same society they nurture. Much has been said about this suppression and all the evil deeds done to women, the other half of any society. Many reasons have also been disclosed to explain this absurd reality. But all of them converge to a point, ignorance. Thus fighting this can only be realized by removing this veil of ignorance that has kept the reality alive for centuries. And the only way to do this is by raising aware¬ness.
There has been a growing sense of urgency, nowadays, to focus our attention, efforts and com-mitments to achieve national de¬velopment. However, it is also clear that it is when we address the different aspects of develop¬ment simultaneously we could effectively tackle the challenge as a whole. One key factor in de¬termining whether countries can prevail over this challenge is their response to the issues of women. The lack of improvement in the situation of women threatens progress as it has many severe re¬percussions for individuals, fami¬lies, communities and nations and thus represents a key threat to de¬velopment. If we see our context as developing countries and put the issue of women to see how it is going to affect much of our ur¬gent priorities, the need to address the issue of women will become crystal clear.
The first directly influenced by the issue is the eradication of poverty and hunger. Exclusion of women from production arena increases poverty. Studies have illustrated that excluding women from participating with their po¬tential negatively affects the so¬cial capital and lower economic growth. In most societies women constitutes half of the total popu¬lation and hence constitutes half of the potential workforce and production. Therefore, their ex¬clusion from the production or lack of ground for them to con¬tribute in the overall production of a country affects countries’ economic growth.
Another area of development is in achieving universal primary education. Discrimination com-promises efforts to reach univer¬sal primary education. It is gener¬ally known that of all the children that lacked the opportunities of education or who are more likely to delay school enrolment or drop out of school, females constitutes the largest portion. So what this basically means is that we can¬not hope to achieve universal pri¬mary education without first and foremost addressing the issues of female. Increased financial pres¬sure at the household level, has also been mentioned as one of the main reason for the discrepancies we have in the enrolment of pri-mary education, this however can also be cured by acknowledging the contribution females could have in improving the financial situation of their households. It is to be recalled that women’s work continues to be characterized by a concentration in low status and low pay jobs, which are often temporary and informal.
Yet another area affected by the issue of women is the health sec¬tor. The material conditions under which most women live and work continue to deteriorate in many countries due to economic and social decline, wars and conflict, and the spread of AIDS. And this has had a tremendous impact on children who women closely look upon and take care of. Reducing child mortality therefore, inevita¬bly entails improving conditions of women. Along with this thou-sands of women die each year from complications of pregnancy or childbirth. This is particularly relevant in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.
Besides these addressing the is¬sue of women can have a tremen¬dous effect in combating HIV/ AIDS, malaria and other diseases. The interplay between these two epidemics has dreadful conse¬quences: TB is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV. Women constitute the ma¬jority of the poor and the illiterate in both urban and rural areas in many countries and many young women between the ages of 15 and 25 have been pushed into sex work and face the risk of HIV/ AIDS infection. So empower¬ing women on one hand involves making them self-dependent and financially independent to the ex¬tent where they can demand and extract their rights, which will have a tremendous effect in com¬bating these epidemics.
If we put the above facts in Context and contemplate on its special importance in our situ¬ation in Africa, we would get clearer picture. African women’s fundamental contributions in their households, food production sys¬tems and national economies are increasingly acknowledged, with¬in Africa and by the international community. This is largely due to women’s own energetic efforts to organize, articulate their concerns and make their voices heard. By improving their own positions, they are simultaneously strength¬ening their society as a whole, as well as enhancing the continent’s broader development prospects.
As we are in the eve of Women’s Day, it would only be appropriate to put much insight to this crucial issue. However, it should be noted that tackling the issues of women lies at the heart of not only achiev¬ing the MDGs, but sustaining and strengthening long-term progress beyond 2015. Without this any development project may remain forever out of reach. That’s why we should strongly reaffirm our commitments to accelerating ef¬forts for addressing this particular issue. We need to also stress the need for their empowerment and on the other hand it involves moti¬vating men to support the women in their lives to get empowered. For women to be key partners in sustainable development initia¬tives, they must first be supported by all sectors of society as active elements of public life. And the ultimate success can be achieved by supporting intellectual awak¬ening among our youth, deepen¬ing knowledge on women’s is¬sues, backing youth contributions and developing awareness of the role of women in development.