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Int’l Women’s Day: Global leaders, groups call for gender equality, inclusion

Adeze Ojukwu

Global leaders and several organizations, yesterday, reiterated calls for gender equality and inclusion, at this year’s International Women’s Day(IWD).

This year’s commemoration was quite phenomenal and historic, with the unprecedented and massive solidarity, by feminists across the world, clamouring for policies that will bolster the inclusion of women in the public sphere.

The theme of this year’s edition, was focused on ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,’ to reflect the invaluable contributions  by women, to save lives and curb the pandemic.

Across the world, women activists and rights groups organized conferences, seminars, media activities and attractive online posts to promote the campaign for participation of females in leadership and governance.

Voices of women resonated across regions and countries, urging governments and world leaders to establish  legal and structural frameworks to ensure that females occupy their positions in all aspects of life.

During the current humanitarian-cum- health crises, women worked, assiduously alongside men on the frontlines, as doctors, nurses, teachers, emergency staff at hospitals and caregivers.

Despite their enormous responsibilities, in addition to shouldering disproportionate burden of financial responsibilities and domestic work in families, they continue to face enormous violence and barriers.

In Nigeria and other patriarchal societies, they are denied rights to land ownership and  shoved aside in leadership positions.

All these challenges were addressed at this year’s anniversary, in order to unshackle women from all forms of horrible cultural and religious obstacles against their lives and progress.

United Nations(UN) Secretary-General António Guterres, underscored this point in his statement to mark the date.

‘Women’s leadership and decision-making is not a favour to women. It is essential to peace and progress for all. We cannot hope to turn the climate crisis around, reduce social divisions or make sustained peace without the full contributions of all of society.’

UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed,  called for more support for women all over the world.

‘We need to step up support for women’s leadership at all levels, from local communities to global organizations, from science to politics. As the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, ‘women belong in all places where decisions are being made.’

The World Health Organization(WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti,  said ‘on 8 March every year, the world celebrates this date, to recognize the achievements of women and to take stock of progress towards gender equality.’

‘The COVID-19 pandemic has indeed shone a light on the effective leadership of women, particularly in times of crisis.’

UN Women called for a ‘shift policy and culture so that more women can claim leadership positions in the world of work.’

The lead women’s agency in a publication entitled ‘Claiming women’s space in leadership,’ urged more feminists to claim their space in leadership and decision-making at local and national levels.

‘Shirley Chisholm, the first Black US Congresswoman once said: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.’’’

‘The future is better with women at every table where decisions are being made. Trailblazing women like Shirley Chisholm have been claiming their space and demanding women’s inclusion and equality throughout history, and now it’s on us,’ it stated.

‘Across all sectors, communities and societies, women have key contributions to make to leadership. From politics and corporations to sports and STEM, diverse leadership benefits everyone. Leaders need to represent the people they serve to best understand their wants and needs.’

UN Women stated unequivocally that ‘this year on International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating women’s leadership in all its forms, and calling for women and feminists across the world to claim their space in leadership and decision-making.’

‘Even with a record-breaking new high of women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies in 2020, only 7.4 per cent of companies on the list are run by women, and women are less likely to be entrepreneurs and face more disadvantages starting businesses.’

‘Women also face intersecting and multiple forms of discriminatory practices at the workplace that keep them from advancing in their careers and claiming leadership positions, such as sexual harassment, the gender wage gap and lack of family-friendly policies,’ it stressed.

To shift dominant policies and cultures, so that more women can claim leadership positions in the world of work, the organization urged individuals to ‘demand equal pay for work of equal value and also call for parental leave policies that support parents of all genders.’

‘Demand zero-tolerance policies for workplace sexual harassment and violence and share domestic and care-work at home equally.’

The campaign for  equal representation of women in boardrooms, should also be promoted, it added.

‘To overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and recover from the ongoing global crisis, the world needs science, and science needs women,’ UN Women stated.

‘On the front lines of response, women and girls are healthcare workers and innovators, researching vaccines, pioneering treatments, and inspiring girls to be forces of good in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics(STEM).’

Undoubtedly, ‘women in science are leading us toward a safer world, often risking their lives as they make up 70 per cent of health and social care workers. Yet, they remain underrepresented in decision-making and leadership as they make up only 30 per cent of the leaders in the global health sector.’

‘Systemic barriers, gender bias, discrimination and gender stereotypes continue to hold women back from rising in STEM careers, which consequently limit the diversity of innovators who are trying to find solutions to the most pressing challenges, from climate change to the COVID-19 crisis. For better solutions that benefit everyone, we need more women leaders in science.’

The organization called for more ‘awareness among children, educators and parents to reject gender bias, that any STEM career is a woman’s career.’

The group urged ‘governments and agencies to tackle this menace by promoting women and girls in STEM fields.’

‘Listen to women’s expertise and have confidence in their research. Mentor women and girls in science and technology, encourage them to aim high. Advocate for women’s inclusion in COVID-19 pandemic response and recovery at national and local levels.’

Relatedly, women around the world are extremely, ‘affected by climate change. Climate-induced humanitarian disasters, often worsen existing gender inequalities, leaving women and girls prone to higher rates of violence, malnutrition and more.’

‘Without women leaders in the climate movement, the solutions and response to the climate emergency will continue to exclude women’s needs and undermine their rights.’

The agency raised another sore point. ‘Women and girls have been leading climate action and environmental movements, but men occupy 67 per cent of climate-related decision-making roles.’

‘Climate justice and environmental sustainability depend on the leadership of women and young people.’

In Nigeria women greater hurdles, such as rape, early marriage, child marriage, stigma and high modalities due to victimization and obnoxious practices.

These gender-based violations are systematically and structurally entrenched by tradition, religion and men.

In recent times some female icons such Prof Okonjo-Iweala, Chimamanda Adichie, Angela Merkel, Kamara Harris and Amina Muhammed have demonstrated great leadership in global affairs.

However most women, especially in this country live in precariously circumstances, neither seen nor heard.

Indisputably the deliberate exclusion of women from corporate governance is not only reprehensible, but a huge loss to societal development.

It is quite gratifying that this year’s IWD has boosted the objectives of the  Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

This offers much hope to activists and feminists in Nigeria and other jurisdictions, where voices of women are silenced and their lives imperiled.

.Ojukwu is a Fellow of Hubert H Humphrey Fellowship, publisher, editor and advocate for improved socio-economic services for women and all citizens, as well as the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGS).

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