For sustainable development, it is imperative for young people to shape the gender equality discourse. The youth are a unique population group with the ability to change certain norms, values and beliefs that have perpetuated inequalities in our society. However, the voices of the youth are not always heard due to inadequate safe spaces and platforms for their contributions. To counter this problem, YI through its #YIThursdayConversations Whatsapp platform, is providing a safe place for its members to interrogate systemic gender inequalities in our society.
This February, the YI members discussed how gender equality can be advanced in the country. Gender equality was defined as the presence of well-adjusted, sensible, identical and equivalent access, control and use of resources by both females and males. The youth noted that achieving gender equality should not be viewed superfluously as it is key to eradicating poverty. When there is equitable participation by women and men in the socio-economic and political spheres, the nation leverages and benefits from the complementary differences, skills and competencies for its holistic development. Whilst gender equality discussions have mainly focused on the subjugation of females by males, some of the youth argued that, the “female privilege” resulting from pro-girl-child interventions over the years have inadvertently disempowered males thereby perpetuating gender inequalities.
Through the discussion, the youth were disheartened because of the continued existence of unjustified and unjustifiable disparities in the workplace. Some companies and organisations are still paying their female and male workers in the same rank differently, with males being paid more than their female counterparts. This is indicative of patriarchal dominance and norms that suppress women and stifle sustainable development efforts. These disparities make it very difficult if not impossible for the populace to end the vicious cycle of poverty. Some of the youth highlighted that the nature of these inequalities stem from the stereotyped gender roles which posit that women cannot handle more technical jobs or occupy positions of leaderships.
Following the lengthy discussion on the gender inequality in Zimbabwe, the youth recommended the following:
- Education: Equal access and enjoyment of the right to education by both girls and boys was highlighted to be basic in achieving gender equality. Equal and quality education not only empowers but also assures both boys and girls or males and females that they can pursue anything they want and achieve all their dreams.
- Empowering young women to drive the gender equality discourse: According to the youth, a shift in the perception of girls and young women about themselves and empowering them to drive the gender equality discourse is key. This will ensure that the young women have an understanding and are equipped to proclaim their rights as enshrined in the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979, CEDAW) and legislation on human rights.
- Joining hands: The youth highlighted that eradicating systemic inequalities and the consequent achievement of gender equality needs all stakeholders that is boys, girls, women and men as well as the elderly, to join hands. There is need to create a culture of partnerships and collaboration which will not only foster male-female collaboration but also youth-adult collaboration for sustainable development.
In a nutshell, there is need for greater dialogue and partnerships towards the achievement of gender equality. Whilst young people are arguably the vanguard in the fight for gender equality, it remains important for the elderly, adolescents and the youth to work together to achieve that equality.
By Amos Moyo