A friend of mine once told me that he was asked the question “What is your gender? while he was trying to bring an ID card from his respective kebele with a view to fostering passport possession. Not only is my friend but most people are recurrently heard of being confused in identifying the terms of ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ while they are given a text to read or news to hear through media or from utterances of people.
Prior to elucidating what gender equality is, this piece tries to provide esteemed readers with a clear difference between gender and sex. ‘Sex’ refers to the biological differences between males and females, being son and daughter and nephew and niece.
Though it is very difficult to define well and give a clear-cut meaning, ‘gender’ is a socially-constructed role and responsibility that society considers appropriate for men and women. It is also the act of undertaking by either of the two sexes among the social strata. In simple terms, gender equality refers to the role played by a male or a female in society.
Having said this, let’s come to the topic of discussion, gender equality. It is nothing, but equal power and opportunities for men and women. It is the state of access to resources and opportunities regardless of sex, including economic participation, political affiliation, and decision-making.
Gender equality is more than equal representation. It is strongly tied to and often requires policy changes and awareness-raising actions among the community. It means that women and men, and girls and boys, enjoy the same rights, resources, opportunities, and protections. It does not require that girls and boys, or women and men, be quite the same, or that they be treated exactly alike.
Equally, it entails that men and women have equal power and equal opportunities for financial independence, education, and personal development. Empowering women will be, an indispensable aspect of attaining the set target via increasing a women’s sense of self-worth, decision-making power, access to opportunities and resources, power, and control over their own life inside and outside the home, and their ability to effect change. The most important thing that needs to be well recognized in this regard is gender issues are not focused on women alone, but on the relationship between men and women in society.
In the long term, increasing girls’ access to quality education, particularly secondary and tertiary education, could increase their relative wages as well as heighten their chances of finding white-collar jobs or becoming successful and industrious in their respective engagements.
Though gender equality is a human right, the world over has faced a dogged gap in access to opportunities and decision-making power for women and men.
It is undeniable fact especially in developing countries like Ethiopian families have, with few exceptions, of course, relied on girls’ labor for household chores, caring child and carrying water, leaving limited time for schooling. However, there is a golden saying “Teaching a boy is teaching himself, but teaching a girl is teaching a society,” taking the fact that a girl is a mother, a sister, a wife a sympathetic person whom the society follows to copy. An educated girl is more likely to postpone marriage, raise a smaller family, have healthier children, and send her own children to school than the boy is.
This can be corrected through adjusting gender quality patterns to provide girls with equal opportunities for education, equal power in a sexual partnership, or support in their fight against gender-based violence.
In sum, at all levels, including at home and in the public arena, women are widely underrepresented as decision-makers. Thus, gender equality should be well pronounced and women’s sense of self-worth, decision-making power, access to opportunities and resources needs to be well consolidated as empowering women and promoting gender equality are instrumental in bringing about lasting change.