Not quite there yet for gender equality, but we aren’t giving up

It is not often that one hears that an NGO is closing shop because its work is done. Many times, the problem being addressed in the communities is intractable requiring continuous effort.

This is the situation with gender equality as the world gears to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (Beijing+25 (2020).

Some progress has been made since the 1995 declaration but many of the 12 critical areas identified as requiring urgent action for greater equality and opportunities are still some way to go for women and girls.

Rwanda is in many ways a step ahead in Africa on gender progress. The recent statement by the umbrella organisation, Pro-Femme/Twese Hamwe, remarks on the progress that has been gained.

The organisation, however, reckons that the country is not there quite yet, notably in the rural areas where there remain “persisting obstacles hindering women to fully enjoy their rights.” It is the same in much of the world, even in some of the most developed.

This year is being described as pivotal in accelerating realisation of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. It also marks the fifth anniversary of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth.

Five years is still a short time to gauge its achievements, but it builds on the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The MDGs lifted more than 1 billion people out of extreme poverty, a significant number of them women in the period between 1990 and 2015. The MDGs also saw the number of out of school children drop by more than half in the same 25-year period before the SDGs took over.

I started by mentioning the rarity of an NGO is closing shop because its work is done. One has done just that.

Peter Hudson set up the NGO Rainbow Development in Africa in 2001to support development initiatives in a Sahara desert community in southern Mauritania. It is now shutting down, its work complete.

I quote verbatim Mohamedou Sall, Peter’s colleague and head of the Rainbow partner organisation implementing the project. I heard him on the radio while in traffic:

“Since the year 2001 we’ve been working together for the development of our community. We’ve invested in agriculture and breeding cattle in the protection of the environment, income generating activities for the youth and women, and access to drinking water. We’ve invested in education and reinforcement of education of those specifically in agricultural activities.

“We’ve almost reached our objectives. Alongside the NGO we’ve managed to gain the interest of citizens to invest locally, which was not the case before the year 2001. Now, practically everyone, both local citizens and expatriates, invest in their local communities.

“For two years we’ve worked together doing what was transition by creating, for example, an integrated farm called Green Leaf. With the local NGO that I’ve created we’ll continue to work using our own resources.

“We’ve been able to help about 100,000 people so far.”

100,000 is an impressive number and one cannot begrudge the NGO its achieved objectives. But it is a measure of the problem that, in the highly patriarchal Mauritania society, women remain vulnerable.

At the sixty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW64) next month in New York the conversation on the women’s plight will continue. It will interrogate the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and its outcomes thus far.

It will assess current challenges that affect the implementation of the Platform for Action and the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

One of the expected outcomes will be the adoption of a Political Declaration to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action by the Ministers and high-level government representatives to give further impetus to accelerated implementation.

The International Women's Day will be observed on March 8, a day before the 64th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women begins its deliberation.

The international day’s theme for this year is #EachforEqual. It enjoins us all. In its website, we are urged:

The race is on, for the gender equal boardroom, a gender equal government, gender equal media coverage, gender equal workplaces, gender equal sports coverage, more gender equality in health and wealth ... so let's make it happen. Let's be #EachforEqual.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

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