Veteran politician Vernon Johnson Mwaanga says it is sad that women have not made much progress in fighting for equality with men.
In a statement, Thursday, Mwaanga observed that whilst some strides had been made in certain fields, women still had a long way to go.
“What do women need to do to conquer prejudice in politics, business, public service, movie industry, sport, academia, medical profession, law, and generally at the workplace? The last one year has seen what amounts to a revolution in Hollywood, where women have been standing up against male predators and bullies who have been sexually abusing women. We now have a “me-too” movement of women which has spread like wild fire to many parts of the world. Sadly, politicians have not been exempt from this sexual abuse of women around the world in return for all kinds of favours. Female students in institutions of learning have had similar experiences with their lectures and supervisors who have been sexually abusing female students in return for better pass grades,” Mwaanga stated.
“A quick look at Parliaments in the older democracies such as the United States of America, United Kingdom and others, makes very sad readings. After all these centuries of their existence, women still represent a small fraction of their legislative bodies. The Scandinavian countries have been leading the way. In Africa, it is heartening that this is one area where we lead the world – for a change. One has got to look at the number of women in the Parliaments and cabinets of Rwanda, South Africa and other countries to see the progress women have made. Of 191 countries surveyed worldwide, Africa proudly takes 3 of the top 10 in terms of Parliamentary representation of women. Rwanda is No 1 with 61%, Namibia No 5 with 48% and South Africa No 10 with 42% Conversely, in countries like Zambia and Zimbabwe the graph has been steeply heading downwards. With only an 18% representation in Parliament from the last elections, we are placed No 111 out of 191 countries. However, in fields such as the Judiciary, countries like Zambia, have been leading the way. We have a woman Chief Justice and a woman President of the Constitutional Court. There are several women Supreme Court, Constitutional and High Court Judges. We are also one of the few countries that have a female Vice-President. The same cannot be said of the corporate world, where with a few exceptions, the board rooms are still dominated by men. As regards other parts of the public service, we have a sprinkling of women permanent secretaries, heads of diplomatic missions, senior officers in the army, airforce, national service, police, prison service etc.”
He noted that there could be no development without women participation.
“Women around the world are struggling to get equal pay for equal work. In areas such as tennis, women now receive the same prize money as their male counterparts, after a long and bitter struggle. In the field of golf, we still have golf clubs which don’t admit women. In some conservative countries of the middle east, women are just being allowed to drive cars. In the newsrooms of major television and radio stations and newspapers, women still perform non-descript roles. There are many countries where women are still confined to the kitchen and bedroom. What kind of world are we living in what will it take to build a world where women will be treated as equal partners to men? In many countries of the world, women constitute the majority of the population and voters and yet their contribution to national development is often underrated, trivialize or devalued. Any definition of development is incomplete if it does recognise the contribution of women,” he stated.
“The world we live in today, demands that we take practical measures that give women better jobs and equal pay to their male colleagues. It is an impirical fact women participate in development everywhere. But regrettably, they are not yet equal participants, because many countries still do not give women equal access to education, jobs, training, land ownership, credit and business opportunities. The global village in which we live, will require men and women with a new mentality and wider outlook of how to make our global village work for the benefit of both men and women in equal measure.”
Mwaanga urged women to support each other as they strive to achieve gender equality.
“A useful beginning has been made particularly in a number of African countries and there is a recognition for women to play a much greater role in matters of policy formulation and implementation. Our women deserve to play this role, because they have earned it and deserve no less. Men must also be more enthusiastic supporters of this noble struggle by women for parity. On the other hand, women must also be more supportive of each other than has been the case so far. If this does not happen, the struggle for gender equality, will remain a bridge too far. Failure is not an option,” stated Mwaanga.