“No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men. There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a third power stronger than both, that of women.”
~ Malala Yousafzai
Women’s rights are human rights. But in these troubled times, as our world becomes more unpredictable and chaotic, the rights of women and girls are being reduced, restricted and reversed which create a social malaise and predicament in our contemporary societies. Empowering women and girls through education is the only way to protect their rights and make sure they can realise their full potential.
Historical imbalances in power relations between men and women, exacerbated by growing inequalities within and between societies and countries, are leading to greater discrimination against women and girls. Around the world, tradition, cultural values and religion are being misused to curtail women’s rights, to entrench sexism and defend misogynistic practices. Womens legal rights, which have never been equal to men on any continent are being eroded further. Women’s rights over their own bodies are questioned and undermined.
Women are routinely targeted for intimidation and harassment in cyberspace and in real life. In the worst cases, extremists and terrorists build their ideologies around the subjugation of women and girls and single them out for sexual and gender-based violence, forced marriage and virtual enslavement.
Napoleon once said “Give me an educated mother and I will give you an educated nation.” An uneducated woman cannot give raise to educated society. Almighty God has created both man and woman in an equal proportion but equality doesn’t mean identicality. They are like the two sides of a coin. One is incomplete without the other.
Each possessed a unique attributes so they can live together in all aspects of lives but unfortunately most women have deprived the right to education especially in the third world countries. This is because in Africa we only believe in culture, superstition and religious misinterpretation. An average woman don’t have a future ambition talklines of a great vision in life. They think as a women there is a limit to what they can achieve or be in life and it’s determined by parents and husbands. They need proper education to help them discover and define themselves, to realise that they are endowed with unlimited potentials, they are precious treasure beyond measure. So female education should be made free and compulsory. In this respect, I really appreciate the indefatigable and resilience effort of His Royal Highness, Alh. (Dr) Muhammed Sunusi II, the Emir of Kano for his keen interest, passion and strong determination to women’s education in northern Nigeria. Other people worthy of mentioning are Sen. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Sen. Bala Mohammed, Dr. Nura Alkali, Dr. Aliyu Tilde amongst other. In the past, our women folk were confined within the four walls of home. Parents did not allow them to receive education and to participate in any outside work which has brought backwardness in the societies.
Despite some improvements, leadership positions across the board are still held by men, and the economic gender gap is widening, thanks to outdated attitudes and entrenched male chauvinism. We must change this, by empowering women at all levels, enabling their voices to be heard and giving them control over their own lives and over the future of our world. Denying the rights of women and girls is not only wrong in itself; it has a serious social and economic impact that holds us all back. Gender equality has a transformative effect that is essential to fully functioning communities, societies and economies. During much of its history, the struggle for equality has been a lengthy vigorous fight that has affected a variety of races and sex. Most movements and theories had leaders who inspired and rallied fellow believers in a common cause. Often the leaders of these movements motivated their followers with inspirational speeches that included evidence from founding documents, to our nations beliefs supporting their ideas.
Similarly, many influential writers for women’s rights followed in the way of abolitionist, who struggled for many years to overturn slavery. Writers such as, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Margaret Sanger and Sojourner Truth, spoke out in protest against unequal treatment against women. For much of American history, women were not considered equal to men and were denied equality in many areas of life. Most women had no legal identity apart from their husbands. Married women could not hold property in their own names, sue or be sued, make contracts, sit on a jury, write a will or vote.
Similarly, women didn’t have the same opportunities for education and careers that men did. Yet, many women found ways to show their intelligence, courage and leadership. Despite this, they played an important role in the abolition of the Slave Trade and slavery in the British colonies. Throughout the 1800s into the 1900s, the womens rights movement worked to change womens status in society. Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized the first U.S. Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York to discuss womens civil rights. The organizers of this event considered them patriots and viewed women’s rights as part of the American Revolutions ideals of equality and justice for all. At the convention in Seneca Falls, more than 300 men and women discussed the Declaration and debated 12 resolutions that proclaimed womens rights and equality.
Women had it difficult in the mid-1800s to early 1900s. There was a difference in the treatment of men and women then. Married women were legally dead in the eyes of the law. Women were not even allowed to vote until August 1920. They were not allowed to enter professions such as medicine or law. There were no chances of women getting an education then because no college or university would accept a female with only a few exceptions. Then the first Women’s Rights Convention was held on July nineteenth and twentieth in 1848. The convention was assembled as planned, and over the two days of discussion, the Declaration of Sentiments and twelve resolutions received agreement and endorsement, one by one, with a few amendments. The only resolution that did not pass unanimously was the call for women’s authorisation. The thought that women should be allowed to vote in elections was impossible to some. At the convention, debate over the women’s vote was the main concern.
Women’s Rights Conventions were held on a regular basis from 1850 until the start of the Civil War. Some drew such large crowds that people had to be turned away for lack of meeting space. The women’s rights movement of the late nineteenth century went on to address the wide range of issues spelled out at the Seneca Falls Convention. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and women like Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, and Sojourner Truth, who were pioneer theorists, traveled the countries lecturing and organizing for the next forty years. Winning the right to vote was the key issue, since the vote would provide the means to accomplish the other amendments. The campaign for woman’s right to vote ran across so much continuous opposition that it took 72 years for the women and their male supporters to win. They finally received the right to vote in 1920.
Womens access to education and health services has benefits for their families and communities that extend to future generations. An extra year in school can add up to 25 percent to a girls future income. When women participate fully in the labour force, it creates opportunities and generates growth. Closing the gender gap in employment could add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025. Increasing the proportion of women in public institutions makes them more representative, increases innovation, improves decision-making and benefits whole societies.
Gender equality is central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the global plan agreed by leaders of all countries to meet the challenges we face. Sustainable Development Goal 5 calls specifically for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, and this is central to the achievement of all the 17 SDGs. Women everyday are getting persecuted for rights we have taken for granted. Gender equality should be practiced around the world because women are also humans and should have equal rights as men. Women should also have the capability to provide for their family and women are naturally more talented than men in certain occupation. It is a fact that their work is not appreciated as must as men, although they have to sacrifice a lot for their family and career. Women should be treated equal just like men. Men are neither perfect nor better and should not be trusted with all the important positions and jobs. Women should be given the opportunity to participate in politics and to provide for their family.
Long before Western Civilization, Islam has liberated the women and gives them their due right 1400 years ago. These rights can be broadly classified under six categories; Spiritual, Economical, Social, educational, Legal and Political. Islam believes in equality between men and women. Islam presents the roles of men and women as complimentary roles and not contradictory or conflicting roles; the roles of partners with a common set of goals and objectives and not roles that conflict with each other with each of them having the objective of striving for supremacy.
History tells us that in ancient times women used to possess massive power and several had impenetrable courage under difficult circumstances. Many women have ruled over vast empires successfully and effectively. Queen Elizabeth for example had led England to defeating the Spanish Armada in 1588. (Briscoe, Alexandra) Queen Hatshepsut, female pharaoh of Egypt, had managed to maintain peace and reestablish the trade networks. (Glueck, Grace) People must recognize that women will never gain freedom until they are respected as humans. Women should be entitled to equal rights just like men. Many religions, cultures and even countries deny the fact that women are equal. But many of the religions, cultures and countries are also against democracy and most importantly human rights. Women need full human status in their own countries.
Women negotiators increase the chances of sustainable peace, and women peacekeepers decrease the chances of sexual exploitation and abuse. United Nation should establish a clear road map with benchmarks to achieve gender parity across the system so as it will truly represent the people we serve. Previous targets have not been met. Now we must move from ambition to action. On International Womens Day, let us all pledge to do everything we can to overcome entrenched prejudice, support engagement and activism and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.
An Article in Commemoration of International Women’s Day
8th March, 2020
Written by: Shamsuddeen Muhammad