It is a good idea to promote gender at all levels since it plays a central role in national development. The nation should be concerned with gender because it is key to development as women hold the key to different areas of life. There have been many approaches to ensure women participation in national projects. One of these is the ‘women in development’ concept which was begun in 1945 by the United Nations to maintain order after the end of World War II.
However, ‘women in development’ failed because it considered women as being passive. They were not actively involved in the implementation strategies rather they were taken as people who needed assistance for their survival. Secondly, the concept failed to challenge the power of men. Since the ‘women in development’ approach only considered women as those in need of empowerment, men did not feel a part of the movement. It further worked as an isolationist strategy. Women were taken as people requiring special treatment for their idiosyncratic and social sustainability when in real sense men should be active participants in gender issues.
As we are approaching the May 20 Tripartite Elections, many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are monitoring active participation of women in politics. The media is awash with articles that promote female participation in leadership positions.
I support this idea! It is a necessary and basic requirement to have more women in leadership positions if our country is to have any positive and national growth. However, there are also many organisations that are showing dissatisfaction in terms of female active involvement in the coming elections. One of these organisations is Pan African Civic Education Network (Pacenet). While they are doing a good cause, I would urge them to analyse the strategies they use to motivate both men and women to participate in politics. They need to first of all look at what are the underlying causes of low female participation in politics. They must look into issues of gender perception at family level before they focus on the larger society.
Indeed, there is need to look at roles and responsibilities of males and females in the family unit. It is important to do this because a family is a basic unit for development. Personally, I hope females can gain more courage to be involved in politics if the males in their homes are in the forefront supporting them.
Therefore, excluding men in gender implementation strategies will yield nothing for our democratic development. Any policies formulated for the advancement of gender equality should incorporate men to actively participate in empowering women in politics; otherwise, the move will flop as badly as the women in development concept.
Government and NGOs should research widely on gender disparities and their effects on female political participation in order to come up with local solutions. They could also further look at women empowerment and equality and evaluate whether their interventions so far are having any impact. Those socially constructed roles of men or women must be understood in programme design as well as roles related to class, ethnic groups, age as well as education.
This can help in coming up with gender policies and planning methodologies while emphasising gender relations between men and women. Government and other stakeholders should emphasise gender role identification, gender need assessment, control of resources and decision making within households and planning for effective gender interventions.
To make economic sense of development aid projects, there is need to allocate resources to both women and men, which will make development more efficient. Otherwise, female promotion in politics shall remain a song that will be sung year in, year out.
The author is studying agriculture education at LUANAR.