GENDER AND DEVELOPMENT; DOES EQUALITY MATTER?
By Ateh Thomson Pepeah
Hon. Attempted, Mezam Central constituency,
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