It is encouraging to see targeted strategies being put in place in various countries in the region but if gender equality is to be fully achieved, there is need to include men on the journey, according to the Chairperson of the executive committee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), Lindiwe Maseko.
While speaking at the closing ceremony of a workshop that brought together members of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, Maseko said women cannot encourage men to understand their struggles if they ignore the importance of involving them.
“Gender equality cannot be achieved by isolating men. In South Africa, after having so many such workshops for women, we came to a conclusion that these workshops cannot be effective because it’s women talking to women and convincing women about women issues and yet the people we complain about are excluded from those workshops. We need to include men in this journey,” she said.
Maseko also encouraged the members to work towards agreeing on plans but to put emphasis on monitoring the progress.
“It’s not enough to agree on policies and plans; we must consistently and systematically monitor progress made in implementing these strategies. At each conference, each chapter should come with a country report on what they have done so that we know how to measure and focus our strength,” she said.
Maseko said strong political will and commitment from the highest level of leadership steer their citizens toward progressive representation of women and development but there is need for more support.
“In order to influence discourse in legislation, women must first find their way to positions of influence and leadership. However, it’s not enough; women must be empowered to effectively bring gender perspective into development agenda,” Maseko said.
She said women in parliamentary committees are well placed to push for accountability from the executive about budgetary issues.
“They can ask correct and relevant questions about how much of the budget has been put aside for women empowerment, progress, companies that need to be supported,” Maseko said.