Ghana has joined the world to commemorate International Women’s Day, marked annually on March 8 to celebrate the achievements of women in social, economic, political and cultural life towards making the world a better place.
The event, which has been observed since 1911, is also used to rekindle the struggle for gender parity and women’s empowerment. The United Nations Women has chosen, “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”, as the theme for this year’s celebration.
Many events, including an inter-schools debate, awards programs, stakeholder meetings, and conferences have been lined up for the celebration.
At the launch of the celebration, in Accra, Mrs. Cynthia Mamle Morrison, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, recounted Ghana’s efforts at promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.
These, she said, had been achieved through institutional, administrative, social protection and legal reforms, including the promotion of gender mainstreaming in all governing processes.
Gender-responsive budgeting in the Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDs), as well as the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programs, were all geared towards gender equality.
Addressing the theme for the celebration, she, however, noted that: “The generation of the equality campaign demands equal pay, equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, an end to sexual harassment and all forms of violence against women and girls.
“Health- care services that respond to the needs of women and equal participation in political life and decision-making in all areas of life”. Mrs Morrison said the United Nations Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995 had been the most visionary platform for the empowerment of women and girls.
The Beijing Platform for Action was adopted by 189 governments committed to taking a strategic view of 12 critical areas of concern which were poverty, education and training, health, violence, among others.
“Today, not a single country can claim to have achieved gender equality. Multiple obstacles remain unchanged in law and culture”.
On the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration, this year’s celebration is also being used to review the achievements and forge ahead. The Minister said women remain undervalued, explaining, “They continue to work more, earn less, have fewer choices and experience multiple forms of violence at home and in public spaces”.
She underlined the gains made towards achieving gender parity in the educational sector, which she said had resulted in an increase in women’s participation in the decision making levels of public life.
However, there was still a lot of work to be done to achieve the UN’s minimum threshold of 30 percent of women’s representation in decision-making organs in all spheres of public life.
Strategies to actualize this, Mrs. Morrison said included the enactment of Affirmative Action Bill. facilitate the enactment of Domestic Violence Act and a Human Trafficking Act, she said.
The Ministry had also been engaging with stakeholders, such as traditional and religious authorities to eliminate diverse issues of harmful cultural practices that undermined the rights of women and girls.
In his message to mark to Day, UN Secretary-general Antonio Guterres declared: “Gender inequality is the overwhelming injustice of our age and the biggest human rights challenge we face.
“But gender equality offers solutions to some of the most intractable problems of our age. “Everywhere, women are worse off than men – simply because they are women. The reality for women from minorities, older women, those with disabilities and women migrants and refugees is even worse”.
Mr Guterres noted that while enormous progress on women’s rights had been made over recent decades – from the abolition of discriminatory laws to increased numbers of girls in school – there was currently a powerful pushback.
“Legal protections against rape and domestic abuse are being diluted in some countries while policies that penalize women, from austerity to coercive reproduction, are being introduced in others. Women’s sexual and reproductive rights are under threat from all sides.
“All this is because gender equality is fundamentally a question of power. Centuries of discrimination and deep-rooted patriarchy have created a yawning gender power gap in our economies, our political systems, and our corporations. The evidence is everywhere.
“Women are still excluded from the top table, from governments to corporate boards to prestigious award ceremonies. Women leaders and public figures face harassment, threats, and abuse online and off. The gender pay gap is just a symptom of the gender power gap”.
This year’s IWD is, therefore, encouraging individuals across the world to work towards building an equal world for the holistic development of their societies by challenging the stereotypes, fighting the bias, broadening the perceptions and improving the situations to enhance the wellbeing of women.