The Girl Child

Gender inequality is one of the crucial issues that needs tackling because this is a battle still not won on many fronts. Sure, Nelson Mandela achieved a lot on the “equality” front by successfully challenging a system that thrived on racial inequality and bred just that: more inequality simply because the system practiced ‘apartheid’ – a concept where it seems morally alright to segregate a community based on their skin colour, their race. Because of Mandela’s courage and faith in South Africa and its people, he turned the politics of his country around. It’s such a sad affair that the party Mandela represented, the African National Congress, is rigged with corruption charges nowadays, and not least because there’s such a capable president at the helm.

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Foreign policy for South Africa can only be successfully implemented through co-operation with the government and its leaders and in the wake of Mandela passing away, the country still seems to be in mourning or unsure of what to make of their politics anymore, and I hope they can pick themselves up and move forward from this stall because their country and Mandela’s legacy needs that. This brings me back to the main topic of this essay, gender inequality. Similar to racial inequality are the prospects faced by women, everywhere, and how they are often affected because of their gender. Women don’t often have the same opportunities as men, don’t have a platform to express their voice, where adequate support and guidance is provided to them.

It is reported that 31mn young girls in the world have never attended primary school, and as she grows up, she is constantly forced to live under the shadow of her brothers, who are free to attend school, because they are from a society where it is considered the norm to do so, very wrongfully, I might add. And it doesn’t just stop there, one in three girls in the developing world are married by the time they hit the age of 18, with the numbers even worse when they hit 15, where one in nine are married. Pressures of such “early marriages” almost always includes the push to have children early, and that can medically be terminally critical both for the mother and the child, where child marriages are involved. Women in the developing world face other barriers at work, apart from early marriages and the pressure to quit work and remain at home: they cannot own land because laws and legislations don’t support it, they cannot register a business or even do simple things that women do all the time in progressive worlds.

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There is talk about entrepreneurship a lot in developing countries but what people often forget is that how do you expect a woman to rise and take the entrepreneurial spirit on board if she isn’t even free to open her own business? The perception needs to shift here in society and as difficult as that might sound of a task, it needs to be done. It needs to happen – women need to stop being poor, stop being considered inferior to men, both by their families and their communities, from the moment they come into this world. We shouldn’t just stop at providing a girl with 7 or more years of education and then sending her off to wedding bliss – no! There needs to be more improvement here, they should be taught to demand and expect the same treatment from the education sector in their country, as men. They need to be taught that having children later in their life can benefit their health, and the well-being of their child. They need to know that school is an essential part of their life and it’s a place where you learn how to empower yourself through knowledge and training – they need to know how to stay off temptations of what seems like an early marriage can provide them with but in reality hardly ever does, which is financial security, a healthy family and a happy home, free from a complicated family environment from all angles.

Apart from changing cultural perceptions in the developing world, there is also the small matter of fact that women contribute to economic growth – in agriculture, in generating tax revenues and through conducting business affairs. Research has shown that an increase of numbers for women in employment will raise the GDP by 34percent in Egypt. Women should also get out and vote, and the DFID particularly does a lot here to ensure that they can in developing countries. Let’s hope girls at home and in developing countries are up for this push for change of perception for “the girl child” for the better, just as much!

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