Empower women to develop Africa

 

Africa is making slow progress in its struggle to achieve a dramatic improvement in the lives of its citizenry.

This is so because African women remain burdened by gender bias, unequal education opportunities and unemployment.

More so, too many of them are raising children on their own.

Because of these and other reasons, Buhlebenkosi Moyo, information and communications officer for Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre Network, an organisation that promotes women’s rights, believes the continent is losing in terms of development by simply neglecting women.

“Women contribute immensely to the development of their nations. By neglecting them, the continent is losing in terms of transforming its economy,” she said. 

Accordingly, empowering women by creating a stable, forward-looking education system and sustained employment should be the most pressing concern for countries within and across the African continent.

Empowering women usually involves giving them opportunity for better education since it (education) is one of the most important means of empowering women with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to participate fully in the development process.

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ith education, fertility and infant mortality rates decrease since literate women have other opportunities in life other than marriage and motherhood.

At personal level, empowerment gives women a chance to make their own choices; challenge the worthiness of old traditions; and to actually look for opportunities away from their families and villages.

It is, therefore, critical to note that the empowerment of women and the improvement of their political, social, economic and health status is a highly important end in itself.

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o fully develop, African countries should act to empower women by taking necessary steps to eliminate inequalities between men and women as soon as possible and by establishing mechanisms for women’s equal participation and equitable representation at all levels of the political process and public life in each community and society and enabling women to articulate their concerns and needs.

More so, African states can empower women through assisting them to establish and realise their rights, including those that relate to reproductive and sexual health; adopting appropriate measures to improve women’s ability to earn income beyond traditional occupations, achieve economic self-reliance, and ensure women’s equal access to the labour market and social security systems.

Moyo believes: “Governments can fully empower women through eliminating violence against women; eliminating discriminatory practices by employers against women, such as those based on proof of contraceptive use or pregnancy status; and making it possible, through laws, regulations and other appropriate measures, for women to combine the roles of child-bearing, breast-feeding and child-rearing with participation in the workforce.”

Governments and civil society in Africa should take actions to eliminate attitudes and practices that discriminate against and subordinate girls and women and that reinforce gender inequality.

More so, they should take the necessary measures to ensure universal access, on the basis of equality between women and men, to appropriate, affordable and quality health care for women throughout their life cycle.

“Healthy women are important to the development of countries. Therefore, governments should take measures that ensure quality health care for women,” said Moyo.

At national level, African countries should respectively establish structures, policies, objectives and measurable goals to ensure gender balance and equity in decision-making processes at all levels.

They should also broaden women’s political, economic, social and cultural opportunities and independence, and support the empowerment of women, including through various organisations, especially those of indigenous women; those at the grass-roots level, and those of poverty-stricken communities, including through affirmative action, where necessary; and also through measures to integrate a gender perspective in the design and implementation of economic and social policies.

Moyo believes that empowering women is important for building healthier, better educated, more peaceful and more prosperous societies.

“It is not a secret that when women are fully empowered and engaged, all of society benefits,” said Moyo.

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omen’s economic empowerment – that is, their capacity to bring about economic change for themselves – should be increasingly viewed as the most important contributing factor to achieving equality between women and men in the continent.

This should also be a matter of advancing women’s human rights. 

When governments, businesses and communities invest in women, and when they work to eliminate inequalities, African countries are less likely to be plagued by poverty.

Entire nations can also better their chance of becoming stronger players in the global marketplace.

Consequently, countries within and across the great African continent should empower women to transform their respective economies.

December 2013
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