The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), amongst other things calls for equality between women and men through ensuring women’s equal access to, and equal opportunities in, political and public life — including the right to vote and to stand for election — as well as education, health and employment, including legislation and temporary special measures, so that women can enjoy all their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The role and place of women in traditional African governance has raised lots of fundamental developmental questions. While women in developed countries have equal rights and opportunities, women in developing and underdeveloped countries are been marginalized by their male counterparts- some are considered as properties or objects.
In this context of globalization and liberalize democracy, women empowerment cannot be over-emphasized. Local and international challenges in development call for an assertive role on the parts of women worldwide. Women should no longer be abused, allowed their rights to be trampled by others, or resign themselves to the kitchen and bedroom. Their moral agency must be duly respected at all times, not only as our mothers, but also as co-equals in all aspects of our undertakings.
In times when men mastermind civil conflicts, it is the woman that shield the vulnerable men from their enemies. It is the women that play the role of bread winners for the family; and it is the women that maneuver through the trenches, dodging bullets while been searched naked by men of war. But as soon as the dust of war is settled, men, once vulnerable and threatened by death reassert themselves by subjugating women to their formal role and place. Unfair reality!
Sustaining peace and reducing poverty require the total involvement and participation of women. Global developmental challenges and peace building require that women be a part of the deliberative democratic process. They should not be isolated or socially secluded from the body polity that focuses on development and peace building network. They should be part of the poverty participatory assessment, the pro-growth discussions, and the allocations of resources generated from the exploitation of natural resources within their communities.
Liberia is doing well in terms of gender balance. Women are now involved in politics and have taken up key positions in government. In the private sector, considerable interest is given to female candidates with equal qualifications. The UN and other international organizations are keen on giving women the opportunity for employment in skilled and unskilled labor. We are making progress towards gender convergence, and yet more needs to be done.
However, while there is a shifting sense that the voices of women are been heralded globally, such is not the case in other parts of the country. Lurking in the dark corners of villages and towns, the voices of women are been shadowed by their male counterparts. In some quarters of our society, our mothers are still not allowed to participate in tribal or town hall meetings. This speaks to the validity of an urban and rural divide; an imbalance in gender and development – a recipe for familial crisis.
Bridging this gap does not only require breaking the yoke of male chauvinism, but also empowering women through social capital and education (quality). Women must be able to speak up their minds on issues that pertain to national interest without being lashed at in the middle of the night by their counterparts. The value of development cannot be measured in monetary or economic terms, but rather in the ability of one to exercise their freedom without molestation.
So as the government and our international partners strive to put women first on the agenda of peace and development, laudable efforts are also required from others, including our religious and cultural institutions. But more than just this, it requires concerted public policy options that are instituted and critically monitored and evaluated overtime for moral consistency.
When asked what she considered as freedom, Musu Massalley said that she would prefer having few cattle. To her, this was all that matters as freedom in her mind could ensure the development of her well- being.
For Klubo Kollie and others, they had implored the Chinese researcher to teach them how to fight karate so that they would be able to kick their husbands’ butts whenever they felt threatened at night. “They only want to recognize us during the night time” she said.
But Sundayma Sayuoh felt that the hand pump which was recently built by an NGO had denied them the ability to hold lengthy conversations while walking down the creek to fetch water. “This was the only time we had to discuss some of the issues happening in our village she said”
“When we farmed together, they are our equals, when it’s time to make decisions and share the gains from our collective labor, they should be our equals as well.” Been on top always may not be the best position, so we must as men see reason to trade positions when necessary.
Emmanuel Munyeneh holds a dual Masters degree from the University of Maryland School of Public Policy in International Development and Environmental Policy. He can be reached at 651-783-2800. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally published October 20, 2010