In one of my undergrad Anthropology courses, I came to know about female genital mutilation (FGM) performed in many parts of Africa. The motive behind FGM is very demeaning for women – to keep women’s virginity intact, or to prohibit them from having “unethical” sexual intercourses. The battle for gender equality in Africa is not unknown to most of us having had the slightest touch of history. Read this article to know more.
Though some countries like Sudan have banned this harsh practice, it still exists in many parts of Africa. The world has responded to minimize the gender-based discriminations that have always been a part of the most widely colonized continent in the world. Still a lot needs to be done for further enhancement of gender equality in Africa.
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The first step towards taking women out of oppression is to educate them about their rights. Previously, most African women silently endured injustices because of their lack of knowledge. Many organizations have stepped forward to ameliorate this situation.
In line with African Union’s Agenda 2063, UNESCO has taken noteworthy steps like gender capacity building, ICT based literacy training, and retention of girls at schools to actively engage African women and girls in education. UNESCO initiatives like the Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education include steps like reducing school drop-out rates among girls in Ethiopia and Tanzania, promoting comprehensive sexual education in Ghana and Ethiopia – these are some of the most effective steps forward. But illiteracy is still widely prevalent among women in other parts of Africa, making them prone to oppression and injustice.
Social Inclusion of Women and Girls
Women and girls are deliberately left out of crucial social roles in Africa. Underrepresentation of women in politics and governance is a major driver of inequality in African regions. Having less power in society, women are being regular victims of mental, physical, and sexual violence.
To address such cases, UNESCO has undertaken various projects to prevent sexual violence against women by educating students. It has also stood beside the victims of such acts of violence to make them more conscious about their rights. Some improvements have been noticed in parts of Congo as girls and women in the country are more aware of different aspects of inequality as a result of the improved education they received on sexual, gender, and human rights.
Diminishing Cultural and Religious Barriers
The prevalence of widespread gender inequality is often underestimated using culture and religion as tools. Many African nations still believe that the subjugation of women is ingrained in their culture, and they should preserve and sustain the tradition.
Misinterpretation of different religious doctrines also leads to an increasing mismatch between men and women. Several international organizations are working to redress the cultural norms in most African countries that allow special benefits, rights, or opportunities to any group of people solely based on their gender identity.
There are still some Afro-cultural apologists who promote that submission to men is what African culture demands from women, even in cases where the latter remains largely maltreated. Regardless of the steps or initiatives taken by national and international organizations, Africa will not be able to combat inequality properly unless their native mentality changes.