GENDER AND DEVELOPMENT; DOES EQUALITY MATTER?

By Ateh Thomson Pepeah
Hon. Attempted, Mezam Central constituency,
Cameroon.

Ateh Thomson Pepeah

Ateh Thomson Pepeah

According to UNESCO, the term gender refers to the socially and culturally constructed meanings and roles assigned  to  persons  of  different  biological  sexes:  males  and  females.  The  concept  also  includes  the expectations held about the characteristics, aptitudes and behaviors of both women and men. On a simplistic approach, the notion of gender equality, thus refers to all human beings developing their personal abilities
and making life choices without the limitations set by stereotypes, rigid roles and prejudices. Stepping down again, the words, gender equality means that the differences in behaviors, aspirations and needs of women and men should be valued and treated equally.
All over the world, gender issues have topped national priorities and is influencing policy towards greater social inclusion.  In majority cases however, this term so far has suffered bias that weights on women and the girl child as opposed to the man. Although girls and women more than before, are becoming influential and productive  in various aspects of life, the majority of  these  especially in less developed countries still face  deep  rooted  discrimination.  Unproductive  and  archaic  cultural  practices  are  still  victimizing  their gender  status  and undermining their chances of attaining  minimum global status for achievement of their full  potentials. They  get regular challenges from  a variety of  gender-biased social and political processes that limit their opportunities and  emasculate  their self-esteem. Addressing this peculiar aspect has even been made difficult by the very fact that rigorous governmental efforts and legal enactments which pass for gender equality have for years remained on papers.

Taking Cameroon for instance; although  with tremendous efforts and interest at equating the vast imbalance between  men  and  women  or  girls  and  boys  within  communities,  pertinent  gender  issues  have  rarely coincided with the countries national priorities especially in areas greatly bespeaking the same. Even when they do, most of these agreeable policies again only get harder on papers but fainter in applicability.

Worst still, majority  young men though seemingly knowledgeable and educated remain strictly on the archaic African inflection that seriously restricts and underrates the full blown sociocultural, economic and political potentials of the woman.  Her place is  the kitchen and her duty is the  home. Her education (even highly professional and superb) dwindles to unjustified subservience and restricted to the kids.

It is once in a while only useful for the males lofty blustery in noise domineering; especially to browbeat others. This has been so recurrent in Cameroonian homes and is still “solving” many educated, highly motivated and ambitious women. Young girls on the other hand are still highly exposed to risks of rap, child prostitution and negative
acculturation. To the extent that the UN World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY) have described young girls as shouldering the double burden of being both young and female.
The  result;  national  labour  productivity  is  declining  and  labor  force  participation  getting  relatively imbalance—increasing at a very decreasing rates and even  unfit  to provide the workforce required of  a 21century, fast pace highly demanding, and growing Cameroonian population.  Food crises and poverty especially with the economic hardship from recent government policy that removed fuel subsidy cannot be avoided. This has  given  more options to deviance by  the poor and helpless  population, especially  young women and girls, with limited  means  and bad mentor-ship. They  drop out of school,  get exposed through prostitution  to  HIV/AIDS,  and  other  STD’s.  Some  get  ruined  through  early  marriages  and  unwanted pregnancies and this hinders girl child education while increasing global school dropout rates amidst an upsurge of the numbers of street children or parent-less kids.  It is another vicious cycle of social vices that has had a long and thriving history within Cameroonian communities.

In this century therefore, maximum use of the countries human capital is an indisputable necessity. For this reason,  my  advocacy  and  voice  even  as  loud  as  it  was  in  my  campaign  and  political  manifesto  at  the countries last Parliamentary Election—as youngest candidate ever in Cameroon’s history—seemed to have fallen  on rugged soil.  Still is it my solemn belief that, a major  solution  to Cameroon’s  stagnating GDP growth rates,  low living standards, high moral  decadence,  poverty,  misery  and other social ills—major indices of negative economic development lies nowhere else but in absolute focus on the huge untapped  reservoir of human  resources  that  the girl child and the woman  are,  even the majority of  Cameroon’s  population.  A gender sensitive approach  therefore need  be taken in the design and implementation of social and economic programs  and  policies  to  reduce  gender  discrimination  and  put  boys,  girls,  women  and  men  on  equal footing.

While  not  undermining  the  Biblical  respect  attached  to  our  masculinity  that  we  seek  its  protection,considering  the  severe  threats  this  article  might  pose  to  containing  dysfunctional  misguided  feminist approaches to this subject as has been the case, permit these deep and sincere words of truth in your hearts fellow  brave  brothers.  It  is  for  our  good,  if  she  seats  for  her  O/A  levels  exams  or  even  begins  from somewhere  this year, it is for our benefits if she gets a  bachelors  or a    Masters  degree.  If she gets a PhD, becomes a professor, is raised to a colonel, Governor, Minister or even the President ; if her place changes from the kitchen to chairing conferences and  managing great corporations;  If she’ll move from just stand before and teaching the kids at home to lecturing in University halls, raising leaders and mentoring others,it is for the greater good and community progress. Prove your love, supporting her. For if  this country must be different, women must take their responsibilities outside their homes for the greater good.  And  young girls must be seen as vulnerable and protected on all flanks towards realizing their full potential even as of the inalienable human rights shared by both gender. One has been vulnerable, the other has been valiant .

Truth  be  told,  whichever  way  it  seems,  gender  prejudices  is  wicked  and  should  be  every  avowed Cameroonians problem. Send a girl to school…this year!

God Bless Cameroon!!
Ateh Thomson Pepeah

 

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