By Peace Agbo
A critical aspect of promoting gender equality is empowerment of women. By empowering women, it means the absence of barriers to the actualization of natural dreams of women. Despite many international agreements affirming their human rights, women are still much more likely than men to be poor and illiterate. They usually have less access than men to medical care, property ownership, training and employment. They are far less likely to be more victims to domestic violence. The ability of women to control their fertility is absolutely fundamental to women empowerment and equality. When a woman can plan her family, she can plan the rest of her life; when she is healthy, she can be more productive. And when her reproductive rights including the right to decide the number, timing and spacing of her children and to make decision regarding reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence are promoted and protected, she has freedom to participate more fully and equally in the society. Women should not be discriminated, humiliated or seen as a minor/inferior in the society including in political participation, but should be given maximum opportunity in decision making and otherwise.
Women can be empowered through education. Education is one of the most important means of empowering women with knowledge, skills and self confidence necessary to participate fully in the development process. When women’s educational status is low, the family size tends to be large; it makes it more difficult for families to thrive. Development and stability are more effective when they address the educational status and empowerment of women. Education is important for everyone, but this especially is significant for girls and women. This is true not only because education is an entry point to other opportunities but because the education achievement of women can have ripple effect within the family, society and across generations.
- Investment in girl’s education is one of the most effective ways of reducing poverty.
- It helps the girls and the women to know their rights and to gain confidence to claim them
- Educated women recognize the importance of healthy care and know how to seek it for themselves and their children.
The education of parents is linked to their children’s educational attainment and the mother’s education is usually more influential than the father’s. An educated mother has greater influence in household negotiations which allows her to secure more resources for her immediate family.
Empowering women through political participation. One important approach to supporting women’s empowerment is her promotion into politics. Social and legal institution still do not guarantee women equality in basic legal and human rights simply because they are women; they are constantly harassed, battered, maimed or possibly killed. It started from conception of the female foetus through her life span until old age. It is an issue which cuts across all social, economic, educational, cultural and political strata. They should be given equal rights, access to or control of land or other resources in employment and earning, and political participation. Laws against domestic violence are often not enforced to favour women.
In government, women in decision making position tend to be concentrated in social areas. Fewer women are found in chief executive and economic areas. This poor representation is in spite of the fact that women are found more in lower positions in public administration, political office, trade union and business. They could potentially serve as representatives at higher levels. They should be given chance to rule in political matters for better tomorrow.
In summary, it is important to change the attitude both within formal government, the society in general. Without a voice in decision making, women will have no access to resources and to the institution which shape social norms and attitudes, women will continue to be marginalized. To change attitudes and sustain these efforts, women need to support social network and the support of the international community.