The 8th of March marks International Women’s Day, a day which provides the global community with an opportunity to celebrate the political activism of women across the world and to actively participate in advocating for greater change for women to accelerate gender equality and the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
This year, MenEngage Africa (MEA) joins other world nations in commemorating International Women’s Day under the theme ‘Time is now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives’. Significant strides have been made in addressing gender inequality as demonstrated by the many progressive international and regional conventions such as Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, better known as the Maputo Protocol. At national levels, some countries within the African continent have taken substantial strides in enacting laws and policies that seek to address challenges faced by women.
However, the reality is that gender inequality, sexual harassment, and violence against women (VAW) continue to pose a major challenge in attaining equality and gender justice. Women and girls continue to be victims of harmful religious and cultural practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriages. Patriarchy continues to be a driving force of these injustices and constitutes a stumbling block towards attaining equality and women’s empowerment.
Economically, the global wage gap continues to persist, with women earning an estimated 24% less than their male counterparts. Only 50% of working age women compared to 76% of men are represented in the labour force globally today. And, women perform 2.5 times more unpaid work than men, according to the United Nations.
Furthermore, women continue to struggle with access to land – as well as land ownership – despite being the major producers of food.
Politically, women’s representation continues to be significantly low, with a global average of 18.3% of government ministers being women. This means that while they make up the majority of the population, women continue to be poorly represented in the decision making structures. Women’s health issues remain a challenge, with high mortality rates and HIV infections being nearly twice as high as those of men. Gender-based violence (GBV), poverty and women’s unequal social status have been identified as reasons for this disparity in HIV prevalence between men and women. Women also continue to be disproportionately represented in peace processes, with peace-brokering efforts ignoring women’s voices in conflict areas where, most often, women and girls are likely to suffer abuse.
This year’s International Women’s Day and theme present an opportunity to reflect on the status of women and the work of urban and rural activists in transforming women’s lives in the continent.
As we celebrate this historic and important day, and keeping in mind the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, MEA pledges to continue to work to advocate for, and promote, fundamental human and women’s rights, including engaging communities’ leaders to challenge and address harmful practices, calling for an end to sexual and gender-based violence, working with decision-makers to advocate for better policies that affect women’s well-being as well as collaborating with other organisations whose mandate addresses women’s rights. Challenging the system of patriarchy and holding men accountable for actions that continue to perpetuate inequality and infringements on the rights of women is at the centre of our efforts to attain gender transformation – and we pledge to continue the work that we have started with men and boys across Africa to change harmful attitudes and practices.
MEA calls upon all its partners in civil society and in government to prioritise promoting and protecting women’s rights to ensure a just and sustainable future for women, men, girls and boys.
The #TimeIsNow for gender equality.
James Itana, MenEngage Africa Steering Committee Chairperson | firstname.lastname@example.org | Tel: 264 61 226 889 | Cell: 264 81 72 535 11
Mpiwa Mangwiro, Campaigns & Advocacy Specialist, MenEngage Africa | email@example.com | Tel: 27 11 339 3589 | Cell: +27 82 480 2223
Bafana Khumalo, Senior Strategic Advisor, Sonke Gender Justice, Secretariat for MenEngage Africa| firstname.lastname@example.org
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