Challenging inequality and gender bias

Words by Margaret Sapazeka

Girls and women suffer negative impacts of rigid gender norms and roles - they are more likely to experience restrictions of their freedom in many aspects. They experience domestic violence and harassment across the globe and have fewer opportunities in life and things are not changing.

Women are 'programmed' by society to only do certain things in society and are misjudged when they challenge societal norms. But that's not to say boys don't suffer the same too. Denying women teh freedom to choose their path in life because of their gender prevents them from fulfilling their full potential in life.

One of the ways to challenge inequality and gender bias is by Speaking up and training our girls to Speak up. Women must be able to speak up on issues that concern them, and to provide solutions to the challenges they face. Women have to be empowered by each other socially and economically. They ought to create a friendly environment for fellow women going through challenging situations. Even when it comes to breaking the glass ceiling in places of work.

Making education gender sensitive is imperative. Improving the gender sensitivity of the education system, including ensuring that textbooks promote positive stereotypes. I urge our young girls (including boys too) to break down inequality and gender biases that are also rife on social media, by utilizing our social networking profiles to promote, share, post and acknowledge causes of gender inequality. This could be a major step forward.

Men's involvement in challenging inequality and gender bias is vital, we cannot deny the fact that men have dominated our social norms from time immemorial and equality can only be possible if they play a role as well.

Since, on average, in every group of 10 decision making platforms, only 3 is represented by women, men should be able to support female leaders in those platforms. In so doing men will realize the potential in women; as they rise to give support and encourage women to forge ahead and not discredit them

In homes, that is where a lot of women spend most of their time, men have to take responsibility by challenging masculinity and treating women and the girl child equally. It can be supporting women in household chores, etc - men and boys need to learn/acquire skills in homemaking to enable equality between men and women.

Men need to advocate for gender equitable policies in the work place like equal pay which is gathering momentum globally, as well as advocate for policies that remove bias and advance equality, including parental leave and confidential complaint mechanisms for sexual harassment and making sure that these policies are working effectively.