For years, women struggled for acceptance and a right to participate and be represented in society as human beings with equal socioeconomic rights like their male counterparts.
In furtherance of the above, in 1995, from September 4th to 15th, official representatives from over 180 nations, and other advocates of women’s rights- totaling 25,000 men and women- gathered in Beijing, China for the Fourth World Conference on women. For the entire duration, legislative sessions were held, working groups formed, deliberation made-all geared towards developing a comprehensive action document for achieving gender equality, development, and peace.
This epochal September meeting was the climax of decades of a global movement and over a year of intensive preparations and meetings, and ultimately, it culminated into the development of the Beijing Platform for Action, which till date remains the most progressive and comprehensive road map and working document for the empowerment of women and girls world over.
Today being the 8th day of March 2020, which is the day set aside by the United Nations for the celebration of Women globally also coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action.
To this end, the year 2020 has been described by United Nations Women establishment as a pivotal year for advancing gender equality worldwide, as the global community takes stock of progress made for women’s rights since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action. It will also mark several other galvanizing moments in the gender equality movement: a five-year milestone towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals; the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security; and the 10th anniversary of UN Women’s establishment.
As we take stock of the progress made so far in the struggle for equality and the recognition of women of as valid and deserving members of society; celebrate those who have fought and continue to fight for the rights of women and girls at different levels of community, society government, and the world at large;
Let us remember that the emerging global consensus arrived at by all key-players in the fight and struggle to achieve gender equality is that, though notable progress has been made, real and substantive change has been remarkably slow for the majority of women all over the world, particularly those living in developing and mostly patriarchy societies.
It will interest us all- Political, traditional and religious leaders, corporate executives and Heads of government agencies, community leaders and Civil Society Organisations, heads of families and individuals- to know that, 25 long years after the Beijing Platform for Action was adopted, no single country can lay claims to the achievement of gender equality.
Yes, more girls now go to school, but a disturbingly larger number are given out as child brides.
And while more women have broken through the glass ceilings placed by laws, institutions and culture over their heads, and can now afford to choose to pursue their dreams, take up space and cement their positions in society, even more women have little or zero agency and choice-exercising power.
It is also true that women can now vote, work white collar jobs and win in hitherto, male dominated sectors, however, there is still in existence a wide gap in earning power amongst men and women who work the same jobs and are on the same level;
Furthermore, women are still being systemically side-lined from and grossly underrepresented in politics and governance, and the private sector.
The list of challenges facing the actualization of gender equality is inexhaustible. And for this reason, we dare not relax or draw back from the call to bring balance and inclusiveness to society. For to do so will be to face the risk of having a rollback on hard-won feminist’s gains.
In closing, as we celebrate the gains made so far, and the heroes (every advocate of women’s rights) of this struggle, may we not lose sight of the fact that it behoves on us as a generation to be the generation that makes gender equality a reality for generations yet unborn.