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Doctrines & Morals
 
 
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REPOSITIONING WOMEN IN SERVICE AND DEVELOPMENT

Recently, the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, held its First International Conference of the Gender Studies Programme/Women Advancement Forum International Exchange, Research and Academia (WAFIRA). The aim of the conference, which was well attended by different dignitaries, was "… reaching out for gender equality and equity in the academic space through the training of students and the organisation of series of workshops and other activities 'in order' to provide practical means of motivating people to act and proffer solutions to the myriad of enduring and emerging gender issues faced by women and men, boys and girls in their daily interactions." In my presentation, I expounded that this statement already captures the inclusive language, which hammers the nail on the neck as we tackle the issue of gender equality while focusing on 'Repositioning Women in Service and Development.' In other words, it is very necessary that men are taken along in order to not simply promote but rather achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) especially SDG5 on the Empowerment of Women and Girls. However, the term, 'repositioning' seems to be inadequate or inappropriate since women being God's creatures, created in His own image and likeness are not 'depositioned!' They are positioned just like any other human being!!!

1. Contextualising the Gender Issue: As we are living in an intensily patriarchal society(ies), especially in the global South, men are still somehow dominant in many sectors of life. In fact, even the so called matrilineal society is very much dominated by the uncles who have the final say in most of the important matters of a family or community, and not the mothers! On the one hand, in such societies, women's role is limited mainly to bear children. We also find this reality in Jewish society too whereby women address their spouses with title like 'lord'. Would it be the same as wives, in our own contemporary cultural context, addressing their husbands as 'daddy?' Or in some societies wives or women have to prostate before their husbands to acknowledge their status (cf. Jdg. 19:26). Women are also regarded as a symbol for wickedness (cf. Zch. 5:7-11). On the other hand, a man is  looked upon from the positive side of the coin; that he is destined for redemption. Even the Bible states that a 'man had a value of fifty silver shekels while woman's value was thirty shekels (Lev. 27:1-8). Moreover, men had a right to polygamy while women cannot claim were  (cf. the story  of Jacob's marriage, Gen. 29:15-30).

Our contemporary patriarchal world depicts this reality too. A man may marry more than one wife, and yet a woman cannot even dream about it. Or a man may be having an affair with a number of women; this seems to be normal! In fact, because of spreading money around them, he is named as 'Baba rere!' On the contrary, if a woman dares to go out with a number of men, her name becomes 'prostitute!' How many old women today are accused of being 'wizardesses', while old men are not? In Bindi, Ghana, there are villages whereby the so called wizardesses are caged, and if they get out of their boundary zones they risk to be lynched. In some of our societies too, women are regarded as child-bearing factories. This is not new to most of us here, especially now that Human Trafficking has become the third illegal and inhuman money making industry after Arms Trade and Drug Industry, respectively.

Why do I have to buttress on these points instead of expounding on Gender while "Repositioning Women in Service and Development"? It is simply because I am convinced that our approach must be holistic from the realistic or pragmatic viewpoint. Addressing the issue in vacuum leads us no where; we just remain at principle or theoretical level. This is one of the reasons which slowed down the Millennium Development Goals, particularly MDG3 on Women's Empowerment. Instead of calling the governments on how to realistically achieve the goal, the emphasise was rather based on promoting Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls. It is not only amazing, but rather shocking to see that some of the main characters or agents of "Anti-Gender Equality" are knowledgeable or well educated men. This point should not be taken for granted in "Repositioning Women in Service and Development."

2. The Millennium Development Goals (MDG3) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG5): The millennium development goals sought to improve the lives of people living in the global South or South pole. The goals intended to reduce poverty, hunger and improve access to health, education, water and sanitation. Women were put on the fore front on six of the eight goals mentioned women and girls as priority target (Cf. Liz Ford, Have the Millennium Development Goals Empowered Women? https://www.theguardian.com/global-development /2015mar/26/millennium-development-goals, accessed on June 27, 2018).

To be continued

 


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