UNDP, in its 1997 Human Development report drew a conclusion that no society treats its women as well as its men. This clearly shows that women, unlike men are often treated differently. In most societies, women are regarded as inferior to men. There are so many factors that prohibit women from accessing equal opportunities as men yet they are all human beings who are entitled to equal treatment in society.
Women are often limited to the domestic sphere hence limiting their movements into the public domain. This is even made worse by the heavy work load that a woman has to bear on a daily basis starting from the time she wakes up in the morning until she gets to bed in the night yet women’s work is not often valued. In short, women spend much time performing unpaid duties than men.
Furthermore, women lack the right to own property such as land. This situation is worsened by the loss of their husbands as most of them end up being sent away from the land which is later on divided by the men. This leaves women as so vulnerable especially considering the fact that agriculture is the predominant activity in most developing countries with women as the major source of labor.
Despite making up half the global population, women hold only 15.6 percent of elected parliamentary seats in the world [source: Lopez-Claros, Zahidi]. Access to education is another source of inequality between women and men. Of the children that aren't in school right now, the majority of them are girls. Women make up more than two-thirds of the world's illiterate adults [source: Lopez-Claros, Zahidi]. When it comes to education, girls worldwide get the short end of the stick. Girls may be kept out of school to help with household chores, they may be pulled from school if their father deems it's time for them to marry, or there may only be enough money to educate one child from the family -- and the boy assumes the responsibility.
Women are also often discriminated against especially in terms of employment opportunities. Some organizations/ companies deny pregnant mothers a chance to employment while other nursing mothers are denied time to nurse their babies. In some instances, women receive less payment compared to those received by their male counter parts for performing similar tasks.
The Equal opportunities Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission Act 2007
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) was established by The Equal Opportunities Act 2007, in fulfillment of Article 32(3) for the purpose of eliminating discrimination and inequalities against any individual or group of persons. Its mandate is to eliminate discrimination and inequalities against any individual or group of persons on the ground of sex, age, race, color, ethnic origin, tribe, birth, creed or religion, health status, social or economic standing, political opinion or disability, and take affirmative action in favor of the groups marginalized on the basis of gender, age, disability or any other reason created by history, tradition or custom for the purpose of redressing imbalances which exist against them and to provide for other related matters.
The Commission envisions a just and fair society where all persons have equal opportunity to participate and benefit in all spheres of political, economic, social and cultural life.
It is imperative to note that there are so many treaties and conventions, both international, regional and national which are intended to promote equal opportunities for all people especially the marginalized irrespective of one’s age, sex, race, religion among others. However, inequalities still exist because some of these laws, policies, treaties and conventions are not enforced and the majority of the stakeholders are not often so conversant with them.
Below are some of the recommendations to promote equal opportunities
- Affirmative actions should be put in place to address the different inequalities which exist in society.
- There is need for all stakeholders such as government, civil society organizations and private sector to make by-laws and ordinances to address issues in society.
- There is need to advocate more for the qualification of domestic chores and labor conducted by both women and men.
- Vet gender insensitive bills and legislations.
- Gender budgeting will also enhance equal opportunities in society.
- Awareness needs to be created on the existence of these legislations, policies, treaties and conventions which provide equal opportunities and these need to be enforced.
In conclusion therefore, it is imperative to note that gender inequality does not only affect women, it also has negative consequences on the men. This therefore calls upon all stakeholders to work hand in hand in achieving equal opportunities for all.
By Brenda Otika-WOUGNET/KIC