Women empowerment and having more women in leadership position is the area that calls for attention by all nations in the world. Having ample empowered women leaders at all levels demands empowering and supporting them to succeed in all walks of their life even from their early school ages.
This demands respecting the various declarations, legal frameworks and policies designed to protect their rights. In almost all countries of the world equality, justice, freedom and dignity of women is well recognized through various international laws such as the United Nations Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. According to the Declaration all human persons have equal rights to enjoy all economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights. And women should be empowered to the extent that they can bestow their level best to their world.
Empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors is essential to build stronger economies, achieve internationally agreed goals of development and would improve the quality of life for women, men, families and communities.
In this regard, the private sector is a key partner in efforts to advance gender equality and empower women. Current researches demonstrate that gender diversity helps businesses perform better signals that self-interest and common interest can come together. Yet, ensuring the inclusion of women’s talents, skills and energies ranging from executive offices to the factory floor and the supply chain requires intentional actions and deliberate policies.
The women’s empowerment principles offer practical guidance to business and the private sector on all possible ways of empowering women in the workplace, marketplace and community. The principles are designed to support companies in reviewing existing policies and practices—or establishing new ones—to realize women’s empowerment.
The principles in brief include among others establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality, treat all women and men fairly at work, ensure the health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers, promote education, training and professional development for them.
Around the world millions of girls are not in school. Globally, 1 in 3 women will experience gender-based violence in her lifetime. In the developing world, 1 in 7 girls is married before the age of 15 with some child brides as young as 8 or 9. Each year more than 287,000 women, 99 percent of them in developing countries, die from pregnancy- and childbirth-related complications.
While women make up more than 40 percent of the agriculture labor force only 3 to 20 percent are landholders. In Africa, women-owned enterprises make up as little as 10 percent of all businesses. Despite representing half of the global population, women comprise less than 20 percent of the world's legislators, as USAID latest report stated.
According to the latest information from the African Union, the participation of women in all activities and accessibilities to use land is increasing in the Continent rapidly. But much still remains to be done by member states of the AU on benefiting the maximum potential of women that could add up value to the existing economic progresses witnessed in many nations in Africa.
Moreover, investing in gender equality and women’s empowerment can unlock human potential on a transformational scale.
More than half a billion women have joined the world’s work force over the past 30 years, and they make up 40 percent of the agriculture labor force. According to the World Bank, countries with greater gender equality are more prosperous and competitive than the ones with little consideration for high women engagement in development activities.
However, an extra year of secondary school for girls can increase their future earnings by 10-20 percent. Girls with secondary schooling are up to 6 times less likely to marry as children than those with little or no education. And countries that invest in girls’ education have lower maternal and infant deaths, lower rates of HIV and AIDS and related health complications with even better child nutrition than their counterparts.
When women participate in civil society and politics, governments are more open, democratic and responsive to citizens. When women are at the negotiating table, peace agreements are more inclusive and durable. And simply by empowering women farmers with the same access to land, new technologies and capital as men, it is likely to increase crop yields and helping nations to feed a growing population.
However, in the Ethiopian context women in senior leadership position are at its lowest level.
Dr. Abeba Beyene, a Lecturer at Addis Ababa University School of Commerce and a scholar in the field, believed that gender equality and women’s empowerment is not a part of development but it is core development agenda. Women should be given support in schools and workplaces with good care.
Especially women who have children at home should be highly supported with the principle of family work balance through all possible means of easing their life. They should be empowered well even from their early ages, she said.
Many women detach from their job and responsibility due to child bearing. This has many effects both on the possible contribution that they could add up to nation’s development and their own economy. The Scholar further suggested that this could be solved with balancing family and work jobs and creating day care place in and around their work place. “This is due to the fact that the children are children of the nation that will replace the existing generation. Hence empowering women encompass all this and many other points.”
Progress cannot be delivered in a vacuum. For societies to thrive, women and girls must have access to education, healthcare, and technology. They must have control of resources, lands, and markets. And they must have equal rights and equal opportunities as breadwinners, peace-builders and leaders. “That’s why we have gender programs in almost all countries in the world even if with varying degrees.”
Recent documents from the African Union highlighted that Africa has shown considerable progress in increasing the share and participation of women at the national parliaments but less progress in increasing the share of women in non-agricultural employment. The economic and political empowerment of women cannot however be decoupled from inequalities in access to primary education. Empowering women through education, delivering them with high level health care, improving their economical capacity as well as implementing affirmative actions are the things that should be put into practice to realize the most empowered women that will take part in the overall economic development of the country and benefit from the output.
That probably is the reason why the African Union has announced that Members States of the union are showing their highest level of commitment to take the issue of women, gender and development to the highest level possible to as part of realizing the big picture of the continent’s Agenda: Agenda 2063. This turns the attention of many countries in Africa to the demographic dividend giving emphasis to the role of the rapidly growing younger generation in the continent especially on young women to the overall development of the nation.
According to the information from Women, Gender and Development Directorate in the AU, member states having seen a range of issues in detail related to engaging and empowering women in science and technology, decision making, education, economic empowerment of women and to the realization of their full participation as well as their benefit in the growing younger demographic dividend of the continent.
It was also noted that by the Directorate that women make up 50 percent of the continents total population; and there needs to be much work done towards their easy access to overall resources, education and other engagements in the political, social and economic spheres.
The other progress is that many member states of the African Union (AU) have introduced law to protect child marriage. But weak partnership of the civil society and challenges related to protecting the needs, voices and safety of women in a war zone areas in the continent were among the many bottlenecks that needs to be redressed in the times to come, this same document further noted that strong efforts done by member states towards free movement of persons and goods (Trans boundary trade) and the role of women in the process and the AU is working with various partners to deal with women, Gender and development issues.
Mano River Union General Secretary Dr. Saran Daraba Kaba in an exclusive interview told The Ethiopian Herald the issue of harnessing the demographic dividend gives much emphasis to women especially young women to play their role to overall development engagements is taken as the biggest agenda by all the member states of the Union.
She further noted that the demographic dividend gives emphasis to African younger generation’s contribution in general. And many of the African youthful categories are young women.
Various challenges of millions of African women are now declining and African governments are giving much focus to this timely Agenda of women, she noted
Empowering girls and women is a means to build sustainable socio-economic development powerful nationally. Hence, empowering women and putting more women on senior leadership positions is something crucial to have successful development and prosperous future we aspire to see.
Today, world leaders, experts and scholars are underlying the importance of empowering women and the need for critical endeavor. Thus, it is good to conclude the topic with the powerful sayings of global notable figures on the need to empower women.
BY YARED GEBREMEDEN