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Women deserve better

Yesterday, was International Women’s Day.

Women’s Day is celebrated globally on March 8, every year in honour of women’s remarkable contribution to our society.

The day also commemorates the inspiring role of women around the world to secure their rights and build more equitable societies. Women’s Day also remembers the voices of many women that go unheard and who continue to be dominated from securing their rights and realising their full potential.

Away from good speeches, praises, our nation needs to seriously evaluate its many positions on the role of women in national development.

It cannot just remain an issue of two or four appointments of women to certain positions that in most cases do not translate in those appointees having the power to influence decision-making.

Women constitute a large portion in Zambia – in terms of population. They are equally involved in most labour-intensive activities where they receive meagre incomes. Why should we continue praising them on these international days and other forums yet we do nothing tangible to uplift them? More often we see even our political leaders using women in their quest for power and the moment they achieve their goal, they assume reigns of the republic, they abandon our women.

Delivery and not good words should lead. Deliberate policies, including strongly advocating equal pay for same job must be the way forward.

Let us not just read speeches saying women ignite the spirit of power and hope. Let that power and hope reign today and not remain a pipedream.

Equality between women and men should never be considered a favour. It is a right for every human being.

It cannot do that our womenfolk should continue to struggle, still fighting to express themselves, even being considered for adoption at whatever level is still a huge battle! Our women deserve equality, to education, to income and most importantly to freedom. We can do better.

Kofi Annan said; “It is true that gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.”

According to the UNDP, equalising opportunities in the workplace, eliminating exclusion and removing the barriers that limit women’s access to productive assets would expand life choices for both women and men and transform Africa. An equal share of women and men in the labour force, equal access to paid work and the same level of productivity could raise Africa’s GDP by three to 16 per cent and countries with larger gender gaps have the most to gain. If women and men carried out the same amount of unpaid care work women would gain almost two hours per day to spend on leisure, productive work and community participation.

Mary McLeod Bethune said, “Whatever glory belongs to the race for a development unprecedented in history for the given length of time, a full share belongs to the womanhood of the race.”

Women’s Day – an event which started with a political flavour to secure the rights of women has evolved over the years and is now a celebration of women’s struggle and fight for independence and liberalisation.

Each country celebrates the day with a touch of ‘culture’ to express their love and honour for the role of women in people’s lives.

The history of Women’s Day is steeped into antiquity which dates back to 1909 when the first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States on February 28. The Socialist Party of America celebrated this day in honour of the garment workers’ strike in 1908 in New York where women picketed and marched, demanding improved working conditions and equal rights. It was in commemoration of the first political activism to protect women’s rights that National Women’s Day was observed in the USA.

Inspired by American socialists, renowned German socialist Luise Zietz proposed establishment of ‘International Woman’s Day.’

However, it was only during late 1975 that the United Nations started observing International Women’s Day on March 8. In 1977, The General Assembly passed a resolution to observe United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace on any day of the year in accordance with the member states’ national and historical traditions. The ‘historic’ roadmap – The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – was signed in 1995 at by 189 governments, focusing on 12 vital areas and envisioned a better world where every woman have their choice to participate in politics, having an income, getting education, and living in a society free from discrimination and violence.

It is from this background that we cannot let down the cause or plight of women.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacity…. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior…. If non-violence is the law of our being, the future is with women….”/

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