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Gender equality: ambition against reality

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There is a picture that is almost like tradition and I see it all the time on our various media platforms. I would blame the media for always publishing such pictures but then the media merely “reflects” and records what is presented when it comes to coverage.

If media people are invited to ‘cover’ a particular function, their core duty is to record the facts and later present them to the public. Sometimes media can get creative but that creativity is supposed to still keep the facts in the open.

Many would agree with me that the picture of a woman kneeling and handing over a pair of scissors to the man that will officially launch, say, a programme or hand over something is a very common picture that always manages to press the wrong buttons and irk some quarters that have an interest in matters of gender equality.

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Several companies have also come under fire when their pictorials depict only men in high positions. And if women are seen around – they are often playing the role of waiting on the men. Usually – if it is a woman in a high position – another woman will be hunted to wait to serve her or ‘kneel’ and hand over the scissors. I have never seen a photo of any man waiting to serve a woman in a public sphere.

Maybe all this would not be a problem if we were not a country that collectively ‘champions’ gender equality in our development agenda and political manifestos. We are also a country that has several organisations involved in this fight for gender equality. Maybe it would not matter if we were a country that accepted its implicit complacency in the fight for gender equality.

The gender equality talk has been floated in the country for a very long time. The organisations and government that champion this ‘ideal’ mean well and there are a lot of Malawians that are for this way of life.

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But let us be realistic. When a woman tries to fit in a man’s world, she is subjected to massive criticism and oppression. This resistance will usually begin in her home before it spreads out elsewhere like the workplace.

When a woman has to work late and odd hours while the husband and children are at home, she is persecuted and society will label her all the choicest derogatory names available on the menu.

When a woman is found at ‘team building’ activities at some luxury lounges around town, she will be considered a woman of no manners and it would be said she is prostituting herself and not respecting her husband if she is married.

While, on the other hand, a man can attend such activities into the wee hours as often as he desires and nothing will be said about the impression he is giving at home. No court of public opinion whatsoever.

Some males will champion gender equality and women empowerment in carefully decorated speeches and on paper when behind the scenes – when their guard is down – they are on the forefront reminding a woman of ‘her place’ in the home or society

There are still professions that most of the old folk consider suitable only for men or only suitable for women and when they see modern society breaking these chains, the people involved are faced with massive criticism. A male nurse? A female engineer? A female president? These scenarios are still considered taboo by most.

Looking at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Gender Equality is found fifth on the list. And Malawi joined the rest of the world last year in completing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and executing the SDGs.

MDGs as well had gender equality and women empowerment high on the list as goal number three. Equality in general is an important aspect of development and the welfare of all people on earth.

Whether we like it or not, gender inequality in the modern world can be a serious detriment to development, meaning there is an essential need for the fight for gender equality and women empowerment to remain an integral part of the development process.

However, gender equality cannot be executed practically before changing the mindset of the general population and breaking cultural chains and social restrictions that are entrenched in this county.

Can Malawi truly achieve gender equality?

I rest my case.

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