Saturday comment1

Both genders should be given equal opportunities to develop themselves, argues Ezekiel Nworie

Humanity is incomplete when one gender is annihilated. Violence against men or women should be viewed with the same lens, both treated on the basis of humanity rather than gender. Any action that directly or indirectly supports, encourages, promotes or empowers a particular gender does not reflect the struggle for gender balance and equity. The saying that “the Future is Female”, promotes inequality in all senses. For me, “the future is human”, not male, not female. The theme of this year’s International women’s day celebration (Balance for Better) is a wake-up call for all who are fighting for a particular gender. To put the record straight, I’m neither writing in favour of male or female, but in favour of humanity which comprises female and male.

The landmark declaration, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, reaffirms that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and that “everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, … birth or other status.” This declaration was backed by Article one of its charter which maintained that “To achieve international co-operation … in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.”

It is on record that the world has done more visible actions in recent times geared towards promoting and empowering a particular gender rather than promoting a balance in the issues relating to both genders. According to The UN Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres “achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world”. Gender equality is not all about women and girls, it is about humanity, creating a level playing ground and opportunities for both genders to succeed and to be mutually integrated into all aspect of human endeavours without being gender biased.

The support for a particular gender does not promote gender equity, several actions implemented in the name of promoting gender equality have ended up creating more gender inequality. United Nations hasn’t been too fair to both genders as the majority of their actions were geared towards promoting and empowering a particular gender.

Looking at the history according to UN source, the United Nations has organized four world conferences on women. These took place in Mexico City in 1975, Copenhagen in 1980, Nairobi in 1985 and Beijing in 1995. The last was followed by a series of five-year reviews.

The 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing marked a significant turning point for the global agenda for gender equality. The Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, adopted unanimously by 189 countries, is an agenda for women’s empowerment and considered the key global policy document on gender equality.

I’m not against the declaration or the setting up of strategic objectives and actions for the achievement of gender equality especially in 12 critical areas of concern.

My question is “Why Women Only”? Are all these issues not affecting both genders directly? Why are there no actions for both genders in this regard? The world cannot claim to achieve gender equality when it is busy promoting one gender at the detriment of the other. There are several actions by the private sector, civil society organizations and government that help to advance the course of women and girl-child only while the boy-child is left to struggle on his own with little or no resources to support him.

In the nearest future the number of males likely to be involved in terrorist activities might increase if the world doesn’t push for actions that will create equal opportunities for both genders. In the next 10 years, there is a likelihood that the world will record more male school drop-outs, especially in the developing countries as all efforts are geared towards educating the girl-child. Balancing for better maintains that both genders be given equal opportunities to develop themselves.

It is an incontrovertible fact that in developing country like Nigeria, both genders face equal share of problems like hunger, disease, poverty, climate change, and natural disaster. During a crisis, every effort is made to save women and children, if all the men will perish no problem. This is a height of gender discrimination. I think the focus of the world should be how to salvage humanity rather than the womenfolk. I encourage every action that will give both genders equal representation and equal opportunities.

As at 2014, 143 out of 195 countries guaranteed equality between men and women in their constitutions according to UN report, but in practice, there are more actions that are geared towards improving women’s capacity to outsmart men. I’m not against any action directed towards helping the female gender, but I’m more in support of any action that gives equal opportunity to both genders.

If we have more male than female in a particular sector, the world sees it as an imbalance but when we have same for female, the world will see it as a breakthrough in gender equality struggle. If a body like UN, UNESCO, ECOWAS, etc., should have 70% of women in their workforce, the world will clap for them that they have done well; but does it really mean gender equality? Let me make it clear, I am currently gifted with two children and both are female, but I decide to stand with humanity and not gender.

I still maintain that any gender equality action that supports one gender amounts to gender discrimination. Like in 1985, World Conference was held to review and appraise the achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women, which many described as the birth of global feminism. For those who do not know, every feminist fight for the course of women only at the expense of the men. Who is fooling who when the world talks about gender discrimination? Given these actions, who is being discriminated against more, men or women? Balance for better is the best approach for any gender issue.

 Nworie is Program Manager Academy, Youth for Technology Foundation