Can there be sustainable development without gender equality? What does gender have to do with sustainability? Well, the African development clock that has been ticking since the time of industrialization will cease ticking if the individuals, governments and non-governmental organizations fail to find answers that these questions beg for. Rather, our catching up strategies as late comer countries to equal or overtake the forerunner countries in socioeconomic development will be a fairytale if we are still in the dark about how gender disparity impacts sustainability. This denotes that sustainability cannot be practiced in isolation and that it is a long-term game which requires inclusive efforts from the entire population and not just a part of the population.
The United Nation’s Agenda 2030 seeks to achieve gender equality through championing for sustainable development goal number 5 of the 17 sustainable developmental goals. However, crucial to realization of gender equality, are the impinging factors whose implications are astronomical and may make it difficult to achieve this. Gender discrimination is widespread in leadership that is exhibited through under-representation in government, education, work place, community as a result of cultural norms, health and healthcare systems. Female Genital mutilation, forced marriages between adults and girls or adolescents who are still minors are crude and primitive practices that are still upheld and perpetuated in some African communities.
As a generation we have the opportunity to raise Africa to the highest point in the ladder of socioeconomic and technological advancement. Albeit, with the existence of gender disparity, am afraid we may not attain the same developmental position as the Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong which are known as the “Tiger Economies” of Asia because of their enormous economic growth. Instead, we will remain static and achieving sustainable development would forever be a dream.
How are we going to attain gender equality that brings about sustainable development if: the global employability rate of men is 94% while for women id 63%? Women make up 7% of the numbers of national parliament? 13% of the agriculture is managed by women? Women still dedicate 6 times more hours than men to unpaid activities such as domestic chores and child rearing?
Although these facts and figures apparently suffice to hinder sustainable development and gender equality, women’s empowering principles deserve a special mention since these principles can act as the gateway to realizing sustainability. These principles are: establishing high-level corporate leadership for gender equality, treating all women and men fairly at work-respect and support human rights and nondiscrimination, ensuring the health safety and well-being of all women and men, implementing enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women, promoting equality through community initiatives and advocacy, measuring and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality.
Besides having those principles that are aimed at promoting gender equality and sustainability, many women in the countries that are later comers have the keys to promote sustainability in the communities since they traditionally provide for their families. Women from these traditional communities often possess important knowledge about sustainability in their environments. This knowledge includes an understanding of local agriculture- that’s what foods are the best to grow depending on season and crop rotation, local water systems and patterns depending on rainy/wet seasons and what kind of the trees grow best and how much wood to use for fuel. This knowledge of sustainability can effectively be used to promote sustainable development.
While much progress has been made in the intervening mitigation towards bringing a socially, economically and technologically advanced Africa through gender equality and sustainable development, much more remains to be done to ensure that women have a full social inclusion. However, the outcome of not providing women with equal voices, choices and opportunities affects not only their lives but also the promising future of our planet.
It is significant that we make gender equality a concern for us all and imperatively get to understand that no country can attain sustainability when half of its population is marginalized. For sustainability to be realized, women need a place and a voice to participate in the inclusive sustainable development. No one should be left behind. Without gender equality there is no sustainability.