Week 14: Women and Equality

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979. This international bill is often described as a bill of rights for women. CEDAW defines what constitutes as discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.

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By accepting the Convention, States commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms, including:

  • to incorporate the principle of equality of men and women in their legal system, abolish all discriminatory laws and adopt appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women;
  • to establish tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination; and
  • to ensure elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organizations or enterprises.

The Convention is the only human rights treaty, which affirms the reproductive rights of women and targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations. By signing this treaty, state parties also agree to take appropriate measures against all forms of trafficking women and the exploitation of women.

The gaps that still exist among men and women include multiple different aspects of life. Women have a harder time finding leadership opportunities if employed. Men are more likely to get paid more for doing the exact same job as women, or even less work than what a women would be expected to do. There are also many lost opportunities for educating women compared to men. In sub-Saharan Africa, 81% of boys were enrolled at primary school during 2005-2009, compared to only 77% of girls (UNESCO Institute for Statistics – UIS).

Though many governments are committed to providing equal education for girls, in practice girls are more likely to drop out of school than boys.

The reasons for girls’ lower enrollment in primary and secondary schooling include:

  • the tendency of poor families to spend available money on the education of boys, because males are viewed as the future breadwinners
  • the expectation that girls will carry out domestic and household work
  • the pressure in some cultures for girls to marry young, particularly where they are seen as an economic burden on families
  • the lack of separate toilet facilities for girls in many schools.

Health challenges are also something women have to deal with versus men. Because women are expected to take care of the household, this makes them more likely to be around illness, since they are the caretakers. This is also why there is such a widespread problem with the Ebola virus effecting women. The ladies in Sub-Saharan Africa do not know the proper ways to protect themselves from catching the virus, and therefore more likely to catch it.

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Another health issue affecting African women includes genital mutilation. This causes long term damage and raises the risk of complications during childbirth. Childbirth is also an issue among the young women in Africa who are married off while they are still teenagers. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that two-fifths of all African girls are married before the age of 18. In some countries the proportion is much higher. For example, in Chad and Niger, a third of young women (20-24) said they were married by the age of 15.

Polices that need to be implemented in order to sustain gender equality is a much bigger issues than the law. Yes, there can be more laws in place, but the activity taking place in these countries towards women needs to be more closely monitored. The punishment for acting violent towards women should be more publicly displayed, and the current members in power need to implement these equality laws. As more African women are becoming elected in positions of power I think there is hope for the inequality to stop. This is a long-term goal that must be consistently worked on in order to reach the results women deserve.

After watching the YouTube video, I learned that maternal health, lack of legal rights, and illiteracy create hardship for girls in Chad for economic empowerment. In southern Chad, women are stepping out and undertaking a variety of entrepreneurial projects, including a restaurant.

Some other challenges women face is that the female labor force has remained lower than the male participation even though women make up a little over half the world’s population. If women are employed in paid work, they are overrepresented in the informal sector among the poor. Senior positions and entrepreneurship still remains low among women.

According to Women, Work, and the Economy, there is ample evidence that when women are able to develop their full labor market potential, there can be significant macroeconomic gains. Another benefit society would gain from allowing women to achieve their full economic viability would be because of the better opportunities for women to earn and control income, they can contribute to broader economic development in developing countries, for instance through higher levels of school enrollment for girls. Equal access to inputs would raise the productivity of female owned companies.

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