Promoting gender equality is a collective effort

by Nyarai Kampilipili – SANF 17 no 5
Advancing gender equality and equity is a collective effort that should be championed by both women and men to ensure sustainable socio-economic development.

Often, there is a perception that only women ought to be the main supporters and advocates of gender empowerment.

“I am a man, but we need all men to stand up for women’s empowerment,” United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, António Guterres said in his address to the 61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61) that runs from 13-24 March in New York.

The CSW 61, is a functional Commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) whose mandate is to take a leading role in monitoring and reviewing progress and problems in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

“Our world needs more women leaders, and our world needs more men standing up for gender equality,” he added.

Guterres said it is critical to break the cultural and patriarchal barriers that continue to look down upon women, as well as gender-blind legal and policy frameworks that constrain women from fully participating in socio-economic activities.

“We are all better off when we open doors of opportunity for women and girls in classrooms, boardrooms, in the military ranks and at peace talks, and in all aspects of productive life,” he said, adding that studies show that nearly one billion women will enter the global economy in the next decade, hence gender empowerment will unleash the potential of women and make the world a better place.

Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka concurred, saying it is sad to note that women are still marginalized.

She said more than half of all women workers around the world are informally employed, including care givers whose other life opportunities can be limited while they perform the valuable unpaid work of care at home.

In other cases, she said, a number of women are clearly earning consistently less than men.

Mlambo-Ngcuka said it was therefore important for all stakeholders to continue working together to ensure that gains made in advancing gender empowerment are maintained and improved to promote socio-economic development.

“In the gender equality agenda, we see progress in some areas, but we also see an erosion of gains…We need to work together to make sure we reach a tipping point in the numbers of lives changed,” she said, adding that “we need swift and decisive action that can be brought about by the world of work so that we do not leave women even further behind.”

In southern Africa, gender equality is firmly rooted in the regional integration agenda and member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) support the fundamental principle that both women and men must be engaged in decision-making at all levels and in all areas.

In this regard, SADC has developed various policy documents and frameworks including the Revised SADC Protocol on Gender and Development to advance gender equality and equity in the region.

In her message to celebrate International Women Day on 8 March, SADC Executive Secretary, Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax said there is need to develop robust strategies for women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work which can yield life-changing results to alleviate poverty.

Dr Tax urged all member states to ensure gender-sensitive programmes are aligned and mainstreamed to all national and regional activities, programmes and projects.

The CSW 61, whose theme is “Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work”, is a functional commission of the UN Economic and Social Council.

It meets each year, and takes a leading role in monitoring and reviewing progress in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BDPfA).