Gender Equality

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As much as I grew up with sisters only, I picked up from other families that brothers were treated ‘differently’. It was as though they deserved more. It was at the University of the Witwatersrand where I learned that gender is important beyond body parts; it can be used for and against you, it is more complex than meets the eye, and it is also intertwined with culture. 

In 2021 everything is being reassessed, and challenged from the core. We ask why are women paid less in some industries, why are some industries only for women, why queer people are terrorised for just BEING? Here are the biggest words I have seen trend in recent times with regards to gender:

1. Empowerment

There are a lot of organizations and policies dedicated to women empowerment. Historically, women did not have the same rights as men in SA. I know this because there was a time when parents opted to take their sons (and not daughters) further in school. This tells you of the imbalance in the futures of both kids. Surprisingly, I was unaware that this decision may have been favoured by women as it was a safer and easier option. However, a lower level of education resulted in lower pay and lesser power, making them disadvantaged; a position that has made women desperate for access to gender equal power today.

2. Feminism

noun

  1. the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.

Google (Oxford Languages)

In most cases, some men and culturists are offended by this word. Feminism is not threatening, until you break it down to day-to-day experiences. E.g., it fights for women to be able to drive cars. This sounds normal today, but my mother was one of the first women to drive in her time! The freedom this gives women is what is pinned as a fight against culture and patriarchy.

The other cause of offense is the fact that the women who are heading this struggle, have been living with limited freedoms for so many years, that when they speak about this matter it comes forth as anger. This is understandable, to have watched the women in your family struggle because of man-made reasons is inhumane. Kodwa, feminism is and must be defended; not to challenge others but for a fair society going forward.

3. Equal pay

How is this a thing? Men get paid more than women?! It is this simple. And yet, overwhelming. Remember when I mentioned that in my small-town women weren’t a priority when it came to education? Well, this is one of the results. I can imagine that people who think it is ok for women to leave school at a young age, surely believe women will never need to know nor understand money; and therefore will need a MAN for money. Women are once again, limited; they are forced to need a man who has access to more money to do just about anything beyond buying bread. ‘Stats SA’s Inequality Trends in SA report, which was released in November, found that women earned on average 30% less than men in the same jobs’ .

The gender pay gap keeps widening in South Africa,

4. Crimes against women

Gender-based violence is inclusive of all genders, but most of these crimes are against women. One of the contributors to this is the imbalance of power between the genders, or at least the imagined power. One side feels entitled to the other’s respect, recognition and servitude, in exchange for financial freedom or nothing at all.

‘Just under 50% of women report having ever experienced emotional or economic abuse at the hands of their intimate partners in their lifetime…’

www.saferspaces.org.za

Some of the men I have met simply think they ‘must’ give me attention. This may seem like a simple innocent gesture, but unwelcome to me specifically. The best thing a man can do is greet (maybe, not compulsory), and then LEAVE ME ALONE. Let me explain, a man who believes I need his attention, is a man who thinks he is entitled to my attention.

This is the group of boys who I ignored in the street when I was 14, and it resulted in insults because I ignored them. How dare I ignore them…I must acknowledge them, THEY ARE MEN! How many times have you had to explain why ‘you don’t want to’? These are the results of entrenched cultural, religious and societal beliefs over centuries; perpetuated by unwritten (& written) laws which disadvantage women only because they are ‘NOT MEN’.

We are questioning, refusing our grandmother’s experiences and re-naming ourselves; and there is resistance from those that benefit from gender discrepancies. In totality, gender inequality/inequity cripples the entire community. A society that allows equal opportunities will benefit us more.

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