‘Any place that does not make gender equality a priority, is probably getting other important things wrong.’
I think this statement from President Paul Kagame of Rwanda befits the 2020 UN International Women’s Day (IWD) theme: Generation Equality. The IWD mobilises a host of instances, institutions and organisations from parastatals to civil society to make pledges, to occupy the foremost front, to be the champions of gender equality.
The 1st IWD was celebrated in 1911 by over 1 million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Women demanded that they be given the right to vote and to hold public office. They also protested against employment sex discrimination.
The UN began celebrating IWD in the context of International Women’s Year in 1975 and in 1977 the UN General Assembly invited member States to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for Women’s Rights.
UN_Women stress the importance of addressing the issue of violence against women and working alongside with civil society, police and local Governments.
In Mauritius, a host of institutions from the Ministry of Gender Equality, the Ministry of Social Security, the National Human Rights Commission, NGOs including DIS-MOI undertake a sustained awareness campaign on human rights with continued focus on the rights of women. But where is the devil? Last week, an old lady has been raped at her place while a very young one has been lured, by will or by force into a guest house. Attempt at chastity is also a usual occurrence in public buses. The CCTV has shown the ploy of a pickpocket snatching the handbag of a lady at a bus stop.
Cases of feminicides have shocked the public, one too many since the beginning of the year, in the very instance of the diffusion of the news and made the headlines in the media. There is relatively more probing into the private life of women- victims to the extent that in one case the widower was pleading to avoid tarnishing the reputation of his assassinated wife.
We always insist on the transmission of values in terms of dignity and respect from one generation to the other. How far have we succeeded? Professor Dr Maulana Akbar Shah, from International Islamic University of Malaysia, has this to say “ women are our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, our wives’’ (Conference on Women in Society organized by Muslim Ladies Council, 24 February 2020). They need to be respected. How far have we succeeded in our informal teaching/learning process, in our behaviour as role models, in our campaigns to remind our students and various audiences of this blatant truth? Education being a never-ending process, the duty is everybody’s , not only women’s, to ‘fight’ for respect, equality in rights and in dignity.
True, the IWD is a day for celebrations looking for role models like ministers, heads of ministries, of churches, retired public officers and of older persons. These are indicators of our success. The theme this year, Generation Equality, poses the question of how much we do for the welfare of older persons and that of older women for that matter. There is Government policy and programme. But we should all be in this together: from local councils to municipalities, from secondary schools to residential care homes where ‘care’ is a way of life. We should think in terms of safety, security, feel-good, food security for all, housing for all, especially those who have reached old age without having had a place which they could call home, moving quarters for various reasons. Lastly, we should all combat ageism wherein as much harm is caused as a physical assault.
Borrowing from UN_Women, here are some ideas on how we could be Generation Equal:
• Don’t laugh at sexist jokes
• Call out inappropriate behaviour
• Join a conversation on equality
• Learn about a feminist role model
• Share an empowering story
• Challenge a stereotype
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