Feminism: The equality of the two sexes
“Every woman should be free to support herself by the use of whatever faculties God has given her” -Emily Faithful
Letter to the English Woman’s Journal (September 1862)
The term feminism, as with many other controversial terms introduced by the minority, has been falsely defined as associated with the rise of women, and the downfall of men. This paper will construct an argument conveying that cultural bearings influencing the social dynamics between the two genders are liable for the considerable gender gap experienced in the 3rd world, but more specifically in sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, the view that an egalitarian society is an agent of overcoming the limitations of gender inequality; as opposed to the social norms of women being the sole caretaker of the home will be explored. The arguments raised will expressively conclude that feminism is essential and entirely for the purpose of establishing equal roles between the sexes in a community to ensure equity, and by extension, development in which otherwise inequality jeopardises.
Social, political, and economic variances fostering gender inequality in Africa costs Sub Saharan Africa $95 billion a year (UNDP, 2016). This is as a result of social norms incurring restrictions to accessing the labour market as a means of gaining economic and financial benefits namely because society governs that a woman must remain at home and tend to household activities leaving income generation to the husband. A substitution of a patriarchal to an egalitarian society is pressing in order to overcome the shortcomings which gender inequality entails. Therefore, it can be argued that primordial traditions and social norms of a patriarchal society has to be recognised as hindering the potential of a double income household and suppressing women’s earning potential. The allowance of girls in the education system for periods longer than just basic education, and by extension their participation in the labour market could enhance the economic, political, and social aspects of a state (Fwangyil, 2011).
Schlein (2016) observes, in his study performed on Nairobi Kenya, that countries which invest in reducing the gender gap consequently demonstrate and achieve better human development therefore showing the correlation between empowering women and development which this paper is trying to convey. It is estimated that gender inequality consequently causes the sub-Saharan region of the continent an estimated loss of $105 billion (which is 6% of its GDP) due to the causation effects of the gender divide existing within the borders. Ironically, women are considered as the sole caretaker of the household but yet have little to no control over the household decisions and spending which further shows the little power women are allowed in the economy (World Bank Group, 2014). Contrary to this, Rwanda has showcased a noteworthy improvement in their development by cross-examining the gender gap in their economy by empowering women through allowing women ownership of assets and resources as just a single example.
Tickner (1992) confronts gender inequality in the labour market and employment roles with relation to the lack of involvement of women in national security, contrary to it being the state’s highest priority. Women are instead reserved the roles of mother and caretaker in the domestic field, and nurses or teachers in the work force. However, majority of feminist principles and approaches would maintain that a truly comprehensive national security could only fully be administered when the subordination and authoritative factors governing gender relations are annihilated (Tickner, 1992). After all, how could a system intended to protect a people population, in this case women in the economy, not pursue their inclusion? Feminist theories have thus suggested that there is a correlation between sexism and militarism- and that violence at all societal levels are interrelated and women need to have control in the security system of the state (Tickner, 1992).
Other than economic repercussions, women in sub-Saharan Africa are consequently involved in harmful practices incompatible with Human Rights at the face of under-age marriage, and sexual abuse due to the objectifying role society imposes on their women. This all relays back to the subordinate positions women are supposed to assume in society and viewed solely for reproductive purposes and guiding the household. Child marriage costs the state intellectual capital, as well as human capital which would be valuable input resources to fuel the economy. Over and above that, early marriage reduces the quality of life in an economy as the girls are prone to health related diseases such as STDs, namely HIV, and birth related consequences as a result of immature bodies such as fistula (Kaye, 2016). There is an age for everything, child birth is a cruel and torturous act which young girls are being forced to partake because they have no alternatives to living.
Practices such as FGM are a further cruel example of the objectification of women and their limited freedom inconsistent and incompatible with the human rights (Davis, 2005). The performance undergone, as surmised by cultural beliefs, is intended to “purify” the woman in order to best prepare her for marriage which is the supposed sole goal of women. Those who dare defy this are ridiculed and put through shame and seen as promiscuous or unqualified for child bearing. For that reason it will be argued that this doesn’t exercise the point of freedom outlined in the constitutional rights of an individual because the act is unwillingly performed on young girls who in most cases are unaware of what is going on and definitely ignorant of the repercussions and the aftermath which they would have otherwise not agreed to.
Kenworthy and Malami (1999) elucidate that political factors are equally important as economic and social factors of gender inequality. Reduced vocalisation of women in society is common in the sub-Saharan African community as observed with their reduced influence and role in the political sphere. That being the case, this creates an even greater problem as there are few women representatives to fight for the rest of the female population in order to overcome these struggles. Shouldn’t humanity overrule any other private incentive or agenda including those prescribed by cultural traditions and social construct? Women should have the same value in society as males do and wouldn’t their increased involvement in state affairs do more good than harm?
Policies directed at enhancing women’s welfare in an economy should be encouraged whether in a developing or a developed state because women’s contribution in society has been proven to be substantial in cases where a crisis has occurred (Shrader and Blackburn and Iles, 1997). It has been contended that women are best suited to be managers due to their ability to deal with and solve problems (Shrader and Blackburn and Iles, 1997). This can be viewed on a micro scale with businesses when a woman was put in place to deal with business losses, regain finances, and to recover a company’s downfall. Sub-Saharan African countries aren’t utilising this notion and disregarding the possibility and potential unlocked when women are allowed to perform indistinguishably from their male counterparts. Significant progress towards achieving equal roles between the sexes in the economy however has been observed in the continent since 2008 as there was an increase in the girls’ school enrolment rate for example.
Gender inequality as explored above is denying an economy the highest possible level of development by constraining women from exhausting their resources and participating in the workforce and contributing to societal progression without any set imitations and boundaries. Women and men are born with a different set of skills and qualifications, and selecting just half of these from the talent pool is inefficient. On that account, feminism is the medium for gender inequality discrepancies experienced in an economy and should be prompted. Women who are feminists are not radical who are trying to sabotage sub-Saharan African traditions, but rather reform these traditions to correspond with human rights and the increasing demands of the global economy.
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Kenworthy, L. and Malami, M. (1999). Gender Inequality in Political Representation: A Worldwide Comparative Analysis. Social Forces, 78(1), p.235.
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Shrader, C., Blackburn, V. and Iles, P. (2016). [online]Lib.dr.iastate.edu. Available at: http://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=management_pubs [Accessed 19 Oct. 2016].
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