In one word? Respect, because with respect comes meritocracy, equal opportunities and pay for equal work. Instead, what we have is continued marginalisation, sexism and misogyny that often see women belittled and our ideas and grievances dismissed.
For decades, men have taken credit for women’s work and cases of female students deliberately given lower test scores by some institutions just so they don’t take up certain positions ahead of boys are well documented! Gender-based violence would be non-existent if we were treated as equals.
The emphasis on equality is intentional. You have to wonder if the female security guard who was only doing her job when she asked a former minister to follow procedure and go through a routine security check would have been attacked the way she was had she been male. And what about the Mobile Money Agent assaulted by two men a few days ago?
Thank God for CCTV or her assailants would have gotten away with it as tends to happen too often. Many cases go unreported and even those that are, may drag on for months or years, especially if powerful and rich men are involved. Many get light sentences and in 2020, that’s just unacceptable.
Victims need justice and not just suspensions or resignations. I think about the millions of girls still denied access to education when the world needs all the teachers, lawyers, economists, doctors, surgeons, engineers and architects we can get. I remember when Malala Yousafzai was shot and nearly killed by the Taliban back in 2012.
She was only 15 at the time! There’re still places where women aren’t allowed to drive or leave their homes unaccompanied by a male and God help them if they aspire to be anything other than someone’s wife!
These are basic freedoms that every man should want for their daughter, sister or any female for that matter! And then there’s sexual harassment and rape. Where do I even start?
Sex for grades, sex for jobs or food in migrant detention camps and conflict zones and some people have the nerve to say that women ask for it!
If our boundaries were respected, we wouldn’t have to watch our backs worried that some random guy might pounce on us or spike our drink.
You can’t even use a public restroom these days without wondering if there’s a hidden camera somewhere!
Asking women not to have fun, party or dress however they want is like asking someone not to buy a car or valuables for their home so they don’t get robbed! In any case, rapes have been reported of babies, toddlers, elderly women and even patients in a coma who weren’t skimpily dressed, flirting or wasted — so any judgment should really be reserved for the aggressors.
So this Women’s Day and indeed every day, we urge men to endeavor to treat women with respect, not as punching bags or sex objects.